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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  May 21, 2012 8:30am-12:00pm EDT

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was an genuine of '09 in the waning days of the chairmanship. that have data from 2006. so we are way overdue for that and i think when congress had one year, they meant an earth year and not a plutonium year. pluto should be a planet by the way. so let's try to get there now. but i think we are a wash and video content. i have three little kids. the oldest is 12. my daughter is 10 and the caboose is five. they don't understand the difference between cable tv or broadcast tv or the internet or something on a mobile device or whatever. speed should there be a regulatory distinction? >> i don't think the. i think the law needs to be updated. i think we need to forget about these stovepipes to say well, if it's collapsed cable, twisted copper phone lines, another. if it's over fiber, another. if it's over the air, in one way, if it's over the air
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another way. a different set of rules. we need to look at competition laws and concentrations of market power. i think new statutory constructs is based on the. >> host: robert mcdowell is a senior republican on federal communications commission, one of five commissioners to our guest reporters today has been jonathan make, assistant managing editor of communications daily. gentlemen, thank you. >> guest: thank you. >> coming up next, a food policy conference that examines recent legislation to fight obesity and improve nutrition standards in schools.
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>> from 1971-1973, president richard nixon secretly recorded his phone conversations and meetings. this weekend on c-span radio, hear more of the nixon tapes saturday at 6 p.m. eastern with conversation between the president and director richard helms. and also fbi director j. edgar hoover. >> some people think that now this is active, i have to make a statement about the freedom of the press and that we're trying to censor them and and so forth. my inclination is not to say so. >> you write. >> i kind of think i should stay up to what is your public relationship like? [inaudible] mr. president, you should remain utterly silent about it. >> you would've? >> i would. >> streaming at c-span radio.o
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>> the consumer federation of america host its annual food policy conference in washington, d.c. last week. representatives from the agriculture department and the centers for disease control discuss recent legislation to fight obesity in america and improve nutrition standards in schools. the discussion focused on the healthy hunger-free kids act which increases awareness of nutrition in school lunches. this is a little over an hour. >> good morning. thank you again for being here, the good policy conference recorder moving onto our last session. we have a terrific panel lined up to talk to you about some really key issues on the nutrition obesity front and the administrative efforts on that and can give us an update on where things are and where we are headed. to begin the panel i would like to end it is sally squires, vice president at powell, and she is going to be moderating this panel and introducing our
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speakers. so, sally? >> good morning, and i hope you're all enjoying this conference as much as i have. we were talking a little bit before this and just saying that this is kind of, for those of us in the nutrition world and food were, this is our conference. there's a lot of different conferences that occur, but it's really a pleasure to be a and c. so many people. so thanks very much. and we have a terrific lineup this morning. in 2009, kevin concannon was nominated by president obama and secretary vilsack, and confirmed by the u.s. senate to serve as undersecretary for food and nutrition and consumer services. at the usda. fnc as has the principal responsibilities and funding
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authority for the food and nutrition service which feeds one in four americans. it also has responsibilities for promoting healthful diets through the center for nutrition policy and promotion, which as i'm sure everybody in this room knows, is responsible with hhs for the dietary guidelines. our second speaker is dr. william dietz. he is the director of the division of nutrition, physical activity and obesity of the centers for disease control and prevention in atlanta. prior to his appointment as to the cdc he was a professor of pediatrics at the tufts university school of medicine, and director of clinical nutrition at the floating hospital of new england medical center -- unser, the floating hospital of new england medical centers hospitals. and for those of you who have been watching who are either at weight of the nation last week
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or have been watching hbo, you know he is played a really important role in all of that. so without further ado, i would like, i'd like to introduce kevin concannon. thank you. [applause] >> thank you very much, silly. i think i will stand up so i can see folks over this way more readily. it's a pleasure for me to be here with all of you, and at this conference, but of also added feature to be here with sally and with elites again. we will work together a week or so ago, way to the nation, here in d.c. as well. i'm particularly please have the opportunity to share with you some very important initiatives we're in the midst of at the third nutrition service starting with focus on the healthy hunger-free kids act of 2010. passed just a little more than a year ago.
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this legislation has provided us with an abundance of new tools to help create healthy lives for our nation's children. we know that nutritious food is critical to meeting the minds, defeating the minds of hungry children. and the importance of our efforts as for the highlighted again this month with the release of the medicine report that said that schools are cute defining obesity in our country. and i mindful as well of a collaborative systematic review that was done about a year ago, finding in other parts of the world of school nutrition programs have many beneficial effects in this space. well, the healthy hunger-free kids act which is championed by first lady michelle obama as part of her let's move campaign has as one of his primary areas of focus the transformation of the total school food environment in order to promote better nutrition and to reduce
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obesity. this will enable us to make major improvements to school meals, the first major changes by the way involve -- in about 15 years. in january of this year, just one year after the law was passed, record time for federal regulatory processes, if you're familiar with them, we issue the final updated standards for school meals. and those standards built upon recommendations from the institute of medicine, ensure that students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week, that's a first. it increases the offerings of whole grains enriched foods, fat-free or low-fat milk, limits the counterspace on the age of children. this is a first, strike away, in the path of school nutrition requirements had minimum set calories, no maximum calories. strange as that may seem, well now, starting with his july across the country based on age,
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minimums and maximus. it also increases the focus on reducing trans fats, added sugars and sodium. the standards go into effect in july but many schools are already well underway to meeting those standards. and i was in several in north carolina just this past week. usda is fully committed to providing all the assistance it can to help them 101,000 american schools, public and private, that participate in the national school lunch program. we are committed to provide the kind of assistance to help them to get from where they are today to where they all need to be. well, the changes in the school, and the standards for the school breakfast program, there are 12 million children that have breakfast at school each day, and that number is on the rise, those changes will be phased in over three years to make it easier for schools to comply. but the act also strengthens
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global wellness policies, as i travel the country i try to meet with state health directors, people trained in public health, to emphasize for them the opportunity to have as public health authorities or health directors to reinforce and to support the efforts in schools to promote health and spirit just a week or so ago we published what many schools across the country have been awaiting the so-called 6-cent rule, many for the first time again starting in october of next year schools will be reimbursed an additional 6 cents per meal over and above the reimbursement rates that have been adjusted for inflation each year, as long as they meet the new meal standards. they are intended to be incentives, and these incentives are the first increases in 30 years in the school lunch program. but a topic that i'm sure many people and your colleagues in this room are interested in our so-called competitive foods,
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those foods that compete with the standard fare offered in the national school lunch program. we are working on those, equally important, healthy hunger-free kids act rule gave us the authority to set standards for all of the food sold in schools during the school day. including those that are not part of a federally reimbursed new. i know you are especially interested in this. we're very actively working on that right now, and i hope to have the preliminary rule out within the next two weeks or so. some states and many local commuters have already fled the way in establishing these policies pertaining to competitive foods, requiring all foods and beverages served at the school during the school day that will help promote public health and fight obesity. schools are extremely influential in this environment. we know from research done that
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school-based interventions can have a most positive impact on improving kids diets. community eligibility, another aspect of our school-based programs, we want to make sure that children across the country in fact have access to the school meals program, particularly so during the period of extended challenges we have been living through in the jobs environment. and i was pleased to learn when i was in carolina last week meeting with the top state officials that north carolina is the state each day runs data in the evening to make sure that a child whose household, that child, household income changes, that that child is immediately eligible for free or reduced price meals, what we're referring to is a direct certification. that's one of the priorities in the healthy hunger-free kids act. it's a way to again make sure that children have access to
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affordable he dashed affordable meals. and north carolina is leading the nation in doing that daily. what we also are making and have changes and/or wic program, women and infant dashed at women, infants and children program, women, infant, and children program targeted pregnant women, lactating moms, young infants, children up to age five, that program, the wic program now serves 53% of all the infants in the united states, first year of life. and so it has a huge preventive health role, and that program, we made changes in so-called food package a year ago last october. that successfully implemented across the country. we have about 65,000 wic stores, so-called, across the country. they are required to have more depth of the stock as which is
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described in terms of healthy foods. and that has been successfully implemented. each month, about 9 million american moms and their children participate in the wic program. well, that new food package was based on recommendations that were made to us by the institute of medicine. well, that same institute of medicine has made recommendations to us to improve the nutrition standards and the food served and child care centers across the country through a program where opera called the child and adult care feeding program. we're very anxious to move forward with that each day about 3.3 million children are in child care or served in child childcare either before or after or during school hours based on age. and we know this is a very vulnerable group of children in terms of the need to make sure that they have sustained access to healthy foods. just as we did, as i mentioned
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earlier, the wic program, we commissioned them to help us with it. another aspect with the healthy hunger-free kids act redirects us in our snap, or the supplemental nutrition assisted program, or food stamps as it is still called in the 22 states, the direction we received was to put an additional focus in our s.n.a.p. education nutrition education on obesity prevention. and we've been working closely with partners, bill dietz and his colleagues at the cdc have been invaluable resources to us to help review standards to provide counsel and advice to make sure that we are using the latest science and findings and incorporating those into the nutrition education program that we finance. we are also of course the source of the icon that is just about a
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year old that was released a year ago, the first week in june. that anniversary is coming up and i'm pleased to see it viral across the country. i saw it in several other schools i visited just last week in north carolina. well, we are looking to do even more on that front as a way of again reminded americans, you know, enjoy your food, but the less, make half a plate fruits and vegetable to look for alternatives, drink more water, don't drink so many sugar-sweetened beverages. has a number of basic messages that can make a difference over time. additionally, this past week we announced the availability of $4 million in grants to expand the use of ppt, or electronic benefit, the cards are farmers markets across the country. again, part of an effort in adjunct to encourage low income folks to have better access to healthier foods.
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we have similarly a farm to school grant program that were promoting as well. but i also want to make reference to the food farm and forestry bill, the so-called farm bill that is looming, i hope it is going to take place this year, but we are particularly interested, and im a very strong advocate of the senate version of that bill for a number of reasons. one, it doesn't make the kind of cuts that the house proposes in the s.n.a.p. on the nutrition programs. but im particularly attracted to an element that is very much a part of that senate ag proposal for the farm bill that would give us the authority to require local stores that participate in the s.n.a.p. of the food stamp program to increase their depth of stocks. another way of describing those stores would be required to have more fruits and vegetables, more
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healthier foods, and more of them. and the reason i'm very attracted to that, there are now more than 230,000 stores across the country that participate in the s.n.a.p. program. s.n.a.p. is now an $80 billion a year program, so it's a major part of the business line for these stores, and i think these our tax dollars going into those stores. if we have the right to say we want to participate, happily sell. but we want to make sure that you are enabling low income persons who unveil themselves of that benefit to have more routine access to an array of healthier foods. so we are watching that very carefully. summer food, we are entering into pit of your where an american child is more likely to face -- and any other time of year. how so? schools will be out shortly. and we have a summer food
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service program that we are promoting this time of year. we have about 3 million, again, american kids who participate in the program but we are also promoting again the most nutritious for the summer food program to make sure that they are providing access to nutritious foods. my plate, smh, one year old. we spend about $1 billion a year in the food and nutrition service on nutrition education. 1 billion. at our flagship ever in that regard, or the dietary guidelines for all americans. we issued of those joined with the department of health and human services. we alternate every five years which federal agency takes the lead. we took the lead in 2010, now it shifts over to our colleagues at hhs, but we work very closely with them. and i do want to mention that
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dr. howard koh, whose is this a secretary for health, he oversees that ultimately at the upper level of the hhs with his colleagues at the cdc and nih. but we have a gap in the dietary guidelines, and that they currently provided from age two through the lifespan, and we are both committed, both federal agencies, in the 2015 versions to have available shortly thereafter recommendations for and since from birth through age two. to address a gap that currently exists. so, those dietary guidelines and we address of obesity in very, very different ways. i mentioned some of the advice that are characterized by the my plate. we also have a super tracker.
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we have almost 700,000 americans who are registered with our super tracker, which can give you advice on, you can punch in what you are eating, what kind of exercise you are having, and give you some direct information that we think would be very, very helpful to people. we've also been encouraging partnerships with health groups, with corporate groups and others on the my plate, again as a way to institutionalizing it, if you will, as part of efforts right across public and private agencies. finally, i want to say that week, every so many years, center for nutrition policy and promotion issues something called a healthy eating index. and very mindful of this because if you were to fully adhere to it, exercise but also default healthy foods, you get a score of 100. well hundred. well, i don't know if there any 100 scores across the country,
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but i can say that groups of americans throughout the demographic incomes, nobody gets higher than a 58. and low income people, a s.n.a.p. program or food stamp program get a 52. so they are marginally lower, but just so. we have a challenge as a country, both in the overall food environment but also in just habits and culture that we really need to address and overcome. we are very committed to do that through a variety of ways. we think healthy hunger free kids in schools are a major way. we think educating people through my plate is another, but also making a promoting an issue, better access to healthy foods and also encouraging access on a regular basis to reduce food insecurity. so thanks to all for being here today. look forward to questions.
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[applause] >> thank you, sally, for the introduction and it really is a great pleasure to be here with you today to talk about cdc's efforts in obesity. but before you that i just want to acknowledge the extraordinary work that you've done, kevin, at usda in terms of leading the efforts to change the program that supplies so many individuals in this country. it is been an extraordinary couple of years. i can't think of another time in our history come in our recent history, when the change has been this profound. i'm going to begin with three facts, and, regarding the prevalence, the cost and the caloric deficit when he to achieve, and then move on to what the targets are and strategy that we used to estimate those targets in a variety of settings, and close with where i think we need to go in the very near future.
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first observation is the prevalence in adults and children as relatively flat. there's one exception, african-american boys. the prevalence of obesity is still increasing, and that's been true for most groups for about 10 years. suggesting that we are maybe at a corner. but we have to remind ourselves, 34% of adults, 17% of it children and adolescents are still a beast and still as the girl will generate additional costs of obesity. those costs in a paper we published three years ago approximated about $150 billion a year, or 10% of the national health care budget. in two recent papers suggest that that, if anything, it's an underestimate of those costs. and, finally, a recent paper in the american journal of preventive medicine suggested the caloric deficit necessary to return of children to what was in 1970 before the epidemic started is relatively achievab
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achievable. that deficit on a daily basis for the next eight years is about 30 calories into to five euros, 150 calories and six to 11-year-olds, and 180 calories in adolescence. now that's the deficit over time and necessary to restore mean bmi to that level. that's not going to change very much the deficit necessary to reduce the obese individuals to a healthy weight. that deficit is more in the neighborhood of seven to 800 calories a day over that same time period, and that's not going to be achieved by the kind of policy systems and environmental changes the cdc has focused on. our efforts are to prevent obesity. where the nation's prevention agency. and i'm about the same strategies necessary for prevention are also essential to sustained weight loss after it occurs. and the issue about excess body weight is not that people can't
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lose weight, but they can't sustain those weight losses over time. so many of the same strategies were going to be using for prevention are also strategies relevant to weight maintenance after loss. now, the target behaviors that we are focused on our physical activity, breast-feeding, fruit and vegetable intake, reduced screen time, reduce energy density foods, and reduce sugar drink intake. those are targets. examples of the potential strategies we are using, for example, are to increase walking as a way of increasing physical activity. to put in place baby from the hospitals in which breast-feeding rather than the provision of when the is difficult. or healthy food financing initiatives, which put in supermarkets or other healthy food choices in smaller stores, as kevin was describing, in underserved areas. restoring water to schools. who would've thought 20 years ago that having water available
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in schools would be a significant issue? in boston, there are only about 30 schools that have potable water by virtue of the lead that exists in those pipes. or other strategies within communities like boston, to ban sugary drinks in all of the public settings that are controlled by the city. with respect to energy density procurement policies that changed the food availability in settings, and we just initiated and is now moving down through the general services administration, a procurement policy which sets standards for the food served in federal agencies. and one of the most notable groups that is getting on board with that is the department of defense, which is millions of people around the country and their dependents, and abroad. screen time is the biggest challenge, and the place where we are looking to limit screen time is really in settings where there's a regulatory approach to
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controlling television time. the places where we are trying to implement those strategies are a fraud and settings in which people spend time. and no single strategy and no single setting is likely to be successful, so our perspective is we need to implement multicomponent, multisectoral efforts. and i will give you a sense of what those might be. because the caloric deficit is so small a among two to five-year-olds, early care and education is an important targ target. and cabins assistance of years ago, we initiated an effort to focus on early care and education by convening a variety of groups that were invested in delivery of early care and education. that has subsequently been adopted by the let's move child care challenge. the first place initiative, and focuses on elimination of sugar drinks, low-fat or no fat milk, control of television time, "60 minutes" a day of active play, and the provision of water in place of sugar drinks.
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schools, kevin has already mentioned the healthy hunger-free kids act, which is going to help to transform those deals that are a fable. we are equally focused on the importance of physical education. schools are one of the few places remaining where children can be physically active and safe at the same time. a good example of worksites that we are invested in is creating healthy hospitals. healthy hospitals, hospital should be the healthiest worksites on the planet but it's part of their mission and yet we see fast food emporiums in children's hospitals across the country, but an increasing engagement to provide healthier options like the procurement policy that's going across the federal government in the hospitals. one of the new initiatives around communities was one started by the stimulus bill, stimulus bill which provided cdc
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with funds to fund a number of communities around the country to invest nutritional physical activity strategies in addition to tobacco prevention and control. that has been replaced now by the community transformation grants as part of the affordable care act. but the principles are the same. begin to government strategies which increase ss ability of healthy foods and improved physical activity as part of those strategies. ..
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>> so the question becomes where do we go next. the sustainability of the cdc programs that i've mentioned is particularly those in communities and within states is dependent on continued funding of the affordable care act and particularly in the affordable care act the prevention and public health fund which is what was supposed the grow to $1.5 billion by 2015. and as those of you who, um, have followed the student loan issue carefully know that there was an effort to deplete those funds, to pay for maintaining the student loan funds that are reduce -- at a reduced interest rate. that now has been pushed back, but that, the affordable care act and particularly the prevention and public health fund in the affordable care act, is highly vulnerable. and, therefore, our efforts in communities are highly vulnerable. kevin mentioned at our weight of the nation conference last week that the iom released a report
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entitled "accelerating progress and obesity prevention" which had five goals and a number of recommendations under each of those goals. these included making physical activity an integral and routine part of life and pointed to the build environment and the changes in the build environment, the kinds of strategies that commitments putting prevention to work and the community transformation grants are fostering. a second goal was to create food and beverage environments that insure that healthy food and beverage options are the routine, easy choice. improved restaurant options and procurement policies that improve the quality of foods available in a variety of settings. a third goal was to transform messages about physical activity and nutrition. this included positive marketing efforts as well as ongoing efforts to reduce the marketing of unhealthy foods, particularly to children. it also emphasized that healthy food retail that is already, as i mentioned, incorporated in our
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community programs. fourth was to expand the role of health care providers, insurers in obesity prevention and control. and i meant to mention earlier that, um, unlike many other public health challenges, there's both a prevention side to obesity prevention and control and a clinical side. because the individuals that have, who are already obese have such a substantial caloric deficit that they really are going to need aggressive clinical intervention. but there's an important opportunity here as we were sized -- emphasized in the iom report for be clinical and community partnerships to both complement, to be mutually complimentary in terms of obesity prevention and control. and the fifth recommendation was to make schools a national focal point for obesity prevention. so both the nutrition standards and school meals that kevin mentioned as well as the restoration of physical activity and joint use agreements for schools to be open to communities after hours so that
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the community can use those resources for physical activity was mandate of the apop, the accelerating progress of obesity prevention in the iom. the second initiative which also offers exceptional promise is the hbo special entitled "weight of the nation." we licensed hbo to use the handle of "weight of the nation." and as many of you know, there are four one-hour documentaries that have been released and are available on the hbo web site if you've not been able to view them as well as 12 short films which amplify some of the themes that are developed in the four documentaries including small films on tig ma, a very powerful film which emphasizes the discrimination that obese individuals suffer. but also films that point to community be solutions. there's a film on nashville which is one of our cppw communities in which the mayor's
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taken a leadership role to increase physical activity infrastructure, building sidewalks, extending bike trails as well as food-based initiatives. another important film is on latino health access, a group in santa ana, california, which documents the efforts to control obesity and its major sequela die piece. diabetes. and there's a very poignant, one of the most poignant moments in any of the films is when there's a small boy, a young boy who's overweight who goes to a parking lot after hours because that's the only access they have to a place where he can be physically active. and he says in just this most striking voice, can't they build a park somewhere, somewhere for us? isn't there someplace where we can go? and that is the problem, addressing the disparities. there's another film, in fact, on disparities, another on fruit
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and vegetable intake and others that i think will be useful in expanding what these films can do. these films were produced in association with nih and cdc. we were, the two federal agencies were responsible for assuring the accuracy, the content of those films. the films were supported by the michael and susan dell foundation and kaiser permanent today, and the iom was the group which facilitated the interaction of the four partners with hbo. but part of what was invested by the michael and susan dell foundation and kaiser permanente was an investment to extend these films as community action strategies. so there are 40,000 copies of the dvds with a screening kit that are available for use by communities or institutions. they link back to a community action kit which in turn links
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to a variety of resources on the hbo web site, and the links back are to cdc and kaiser permanente and other organizations that are invested in obesity control. and our hope is that these films can be used to foster a discussion at the local level and to begin to organize communities and institutions about what they can do to reverse this epidemic. so as i said at the beginning, i think we may be at a turning point. whether we can sustain the movement and energy that has accompany bed the epidemic -- accompanied the epidemic of obesity thus far remains to be seen, but the resources are there, and i hope increasingly, the political will is there. so i think i'll close, and we'll look forward to the discussion. >> thank you. [applause] so i have just a couple of questions, and then we want to
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open this up so it's very much of a dialogue. you both talked about the increasing collaborations between your agencies, and i wondered if you could both expand on that a little bit more and talk about what the impact has been on this synergy. >> i can begin by saying that i spent most of my career in state governments as the health and human service director in three states, been with the federal government for just under three years now. but the career people, the senior people that i work with on a daily basis all reflect to me that they have seen more cross the federal government interaction in this administration than over the life of their careers. and i can tell you that in the food nutrition area whether it's getting right down to -- i referenced the review that cdr made and recommendations to us
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more recently. bill dietz's sec or to have at cdc actually detailed or allowed somebody to come up and work at our center for nutrition policy and promotion both to help us better understand how cdc moves its initiatives, but also to share with the cdc how these policies and programs are developed on our side. howard coe was the health commissioner up in massachusetts when i was up in maine. we've carried that relationship over, and i think along with bill we're all red sox fans as well. but that has nothing to do with the health agenda. >> oh, no -- [laughter] mental health. [laughter] >> but we are, i mean, we have really a strong relationship with hhs in particular but also with the department of education as we move forward on our
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healthyier-free can kids act. -- healthy, hunger-free kids act. everything we do in the food arena we do through others, through state agencies, county agencies, food banks in some cases, public university extension services that provide much of the nutrition education. so it is at the core of our efforts often as i describe them, our relationships, and it is important we promote that to be good, to be good partners with other parts of the government, but also with the private sector. that's how we move things forward. so i think it is a very, it has been an environment of a lot of cooperation. and for us even internally in the u.s. department of education we work very closely particularly with the economic research service as an example, we just participated with them earlier this week in a wonderful
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study that they did on the issue of affordability of healthy foods. we're often fighting this old chestnut that says, gee, i can't afford to heat healthily. healthy foods are always more expensive. well, it depends on how you define it, and i think that's a very powerful study that they have done, and we're anxious to push it out to really challenge that, to say one can eat in a healthy manner. it takes planning, it takes prudence, takes access, but it can be done. >> i came to cdc in 1997, and up until this administration the principle collaborations which worked well were around the dietary guidelines and, also, the national fruit and vegetable alliance which was a very successful public/private partnership. but the degree of collaboration has really been extraordinary in the last three years, and kevin
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mentioned the interaction with cdc. from our perspective that interaction has occurred not only with usda, but within hhs across agencies that had not previously crab rated. a couple -- collaborated. a couple of examples are the interagency working group on food marketing to children which was a collaboration of usda, ftc, fda and cdc. another good example is the work that is going on, um, which i didn't mention, a million hearts, which is focused on aspirin/blood pressure control, cholesterol screening screeningd smoking cessation that is a join program with cms. the degree of collaboration around tobacco control between cdc and fda is another exceptional effort, and i suspect you heard earlier about the collaboration around food safety which crosses cdc, fda and usda. and, you know, it's hard to know
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why that progress didn't exist sooner, because these issues have moved forward so substantially in the last couple of to years. >> do we have questions out in the audience that -- and while we're, while chris is getting up, i'll ask just one more to bill, and then i have another one for kevin. if you look at this space, how do we achieve broader social change? what do you think it's going to take? >> as i, as i think i indicated, the changes in the food and physical activity environments really need to be transformative in order to reverse this epidemic. an douse to a social movement -- analogous to a social movement. and there's certainly a lot of movement, but i'm not yet sure that it's a movement. and one of the problems is that the constituencies around these issues are different. so the same group that promotes
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increased rates of breast-feeding and is passionate about it may be quite different than the group that wants to restrict the marketing of unhealthy food to children. and a second factor is that most social movements have not been top down the way the obesity epidemic has evolved with the government at several levels and a variety of medical groups and businesses driving it. it's really had a grassroots component. and that's what's missing. and what i hope the hbo documentaries will help foster. >> i think we have a question over here. >> yeah. hi, katie keefeer again from heritage radio network, sorry. mr. concannon, this is primarily a question for you. um, you know, i think we all applaud the, um, the success of, you know, the transformation of school lunch and so forth, and i know that i have interviewed personally dozens of people involved in improve offing nutrition in the school
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classrooms including ann cooper, the lunch lady and wellness in the schools in new york city which has been a successful program. one of the issues that comes up over and over again about improving school nutrition is the actual kitchen facilities themselves have been, essentially, dismantled so that all of the food that comes in is preprepared, they put it on a sheet pan, they throw it in the oven; and there's very little actual cooking going on and that the people who work in the lunchroom, the lunch ladies, don't have culinary skills. so my question to you is sort of twofold. one is, do -- is there funding for programs to retrain school cafeteria personnel and retrofit those kitchens and secondly, um, in an earlier session today scott faber from the environmental working group was talking about the entitlements in the upcoming farm bill, and one of the statistics he quoted which was incredibly dismaying is that $142 billion is being
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earmarked, um, as subsidies and entitlements for already-successful farm being operations and insurance companies which could, which don't need the money but are getting it. and i wondered if any of the money that is being proposed for those entities could be, um, you know, allocated back towards school lunch and programs that would help improve nutrition if schools by retrofitting kitchens, training personnel and creating regional distribution systems to get more fruits and vegetables from local area farmers? sorry about such a long question. anyway, there you go. >> the second question is actually a little easier for me to answer or respond to, and i'm not sure where he got those numbers. he's raising the issue of how we spending a churl dollars broadly -- agricultural dollars broadly. let me say the annual budget of the u.s. department of agriculture is in the area of around $150 billion.
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$105 billion of that comes to the nutrition area that i have responsibility for. so it's one of those public perception issues. if you ask the american people where's the agriculture department's budget, where does most of it go, most of it goes to the nutrition space. so, and i'm very proud of that. i think as americans we can be proud of that. be it has enjoyed over the years sort of bipartisan support. i hope that holds in this more challenged environment. so i guess, as i say, i'm not sure where some of those numbers came from. to your question about schools, let me say that i have, first of all, many schools historically over the years didn't have kitchens period, especially in older school buildings. kids brought their lunches from are home. so they were never adequately equipped from the point of view of many cases of having a full-blown kitchen. we have, we in the stimulus bill
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two years ago put out about $100 million in a matter of weeks. to help schools equip and modernize their school food service areas. within a short period of time, we had requests for $650 million. we had $900 million. -- $100 million. we had an additional $125 million in the last budget. there is no question about the fact that schools are really challenged in terms of their infrastructure environment around cooling particularly as we get into more vegetables and fruits and salads, etc. you need to have that cooling equipment as well. now, what many -- yet at the same time i've been in schools, i recall a school in denver i was at that has pretty old equipment, and they're doing all foods from scratch. actually whole grain breads, etc. so it can't be done. it's more of a challenge.
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in the healthy, hunger-free kids act, congress appropriated $50 million to us to provide training and technical assistance to school nutrition folks across the country. we're very committed to that. we're already engaged in that. we've been running something down in fredericksburg, virginia, for the past two years called produce safety university where we're enabling and educating school nutrition leaders on local purchasing so that they deal with safety issues, traceability, but also ways in which school foods are presented to engage children. some of the work of brian wantic up at cornell on how you structure foods to nudge kids, make the right choice the healthy choice. and so i've been able to see, i've been out to visit many, many schools. there are about 3,000 of them that have already met at least one level of the criteria from
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the healthy, the first lady's let's move! challenge, and those schools are doing it, many of them not without the latest equipment. so it can be done, it will be challenging, but i don't think we should -- i wouldn't be satisfied, nor to i think it would be reasonable to think that the majority of public and private schools can't meet the challenges of healthier foods that kids will consume even with the challenges they have in their infrastructure. >> are there questions out there? and while chris is doing the -- i'm going to ask -- go ahead. you got there fast, so -- >> not so far this time. thanks, chris. thanks to both of you for being here, this is save rah bourne from food and water watch. you mentioned the working group on food marketing to children, that's something we've been watching with interest and following the voluntary guidance that had been released, the proposed voluntary guidance, and
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we've been kind of disappointed that that seems to be back burnerred if i understand correctly. and i wonder if with the competitive food regulations that are going to be coming out in the next couple of weeks if voluntary guidance hasn't been the place where we can push on creating some kind of industry standard on food marketed to children if competitive food marketing standard might be de facto, if industry needs to meet these requirements to sell their foods in school, if we'll have any more widespread impact in other places where foods are marketed to children. >> i'll let kevin answer the competitive foods piece. and they're really two separate issues because the interagency working group was focused on marketing standards. and i think that the principles that we put in place for sound principles. -- were sound principles, the most important of which that a food marketed to children had to contain a meaningful amount of food recommended by the guidelines. and i think it's unfortunate
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that congress required us to do a, required the ftc to do a cost benefit be analysis before that report was submitted to congress because the children's food and beverage advertising initiative moved substantially in the direction of the principles that we articulated. but we weren't about to -- it made it impossible to do a cost benefit analysis because either way we were caught. how could we project the implementation of voluntary standards? and if we, even if we could do that, how could we predict what impact that would have long term on the health of children and adolescents as they became adults and, and how could we possibly fix a cost to that? so if we did, if we actually did a cost benefit analysis, we would be accused of doing something we didn't have to do and, therefore, we were moving towards a regulatory approach. these were voluntary standards, and only regulatory standards
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needed to have such a report. on the other hand, if we -- and if we submitted a report, it would be attacked based on the faulty assumptions that underlay the reasoning in the report. so we were stuck. and, um, it's -- chairman leibowitz said that in a congressional hearing, that at least for the time being that report was, that we weren't going to do anything further with the report. but competitive foods is yet another issue. >> competitive foods, let me say that we were talking about partnerships earlier in the federal government to an earlier question. happily, the healthy, hunger-free kids act had a very eclectic and interesting and effective group of partnerships. and among the partner participants that i highly value in a particular way was that of an organization here in this town called mission readiness,
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an organization of retired military senior leaders, admirals and generals that are, i think, in excess of 250 of them. they successfully lobbied the hill and lobbied the senate agriculture committee which was the original source of this in particular to make sure that we had the authority, unprecedented authority, around competitive foods in all schools across the country. and they did so because they recognize that this is a public health challenge in this country, something like 27% of young people, male and female, who would be in the typical age cohort to join the military are ineligible because they're so seriously overweight. and at the weight of the nation last week, bill and i, the panel we were a part of, a physician who is in charge of the, all of the health facilities across the world for active military
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pointed out a statistic that i was unaware of before that something like 24% of military personnel who are actively in the military are not allowed to renew their, their, to re-up so to speak because they are so seriously overweight. so there was a recognition here that we have to take some very broad, robust -- they can't be weak in terms of their impact. and i consider the competitive foods directive that we have as just as important as the school meal regulations that we've already promulgated. and so we've been working very hard on those and want to make sure that they are, in fact, they will become both the law of the land and will, basically, significantly alter the food environment for american children. as i say, i go out to schools, most of the schools i visit are
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schools that are brought to our attention as leaders. but i get into schools that for other reasons i happen to visit, and when i see some of the competitive foods that are being offered to kids at the same table with the school meal, you know, it just doesn't work that way. you wouldn't do it in your own household, or it shouldn't work that way. so we're very anxious to move forward with that. we have a mandate in that regard, but we know it's going to require the support of people in this room and beyond that as well. >> so while chris gets to the next question, i would also just like for those of you who are interested in this whole question of mission readiness, next week if you want to have another conference to go to, national journal has a conference that will be, um, next wednesday at union station. it's a summit looking at this very issue of readiness and
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obesity and what effect -- military readiness and what effect that is having. >> hi. my name's meg booth, i'm with the children's mental health project. we're a consumer organization, and i'm here because we work on prevention of dental disease which is, as you know, the number one chronic condition of childhood, and in the youngest kids, um, before they enter school it's the only portion of kids that have an increase in dental decay. the rest of the kids we're sort of seeing a decrease because of water flour ridization and other things. i'm here because we're trying to cross paths especially when it comes to pregnant women and kids under the age of 3. so i was wondering if you could answer the question, you sort of mentioned you're coming up with guidelines for kids birth to 2, and i was just curious to know if you've try today engage the dental community at all because they're trying to focus in on preventing tooth decay as because it's so diet-dependent. and as a consumer organization,
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i'd say we'd love to engage in how to join the nutrition world in those efforts. we can't do it by ourself, but how do we join efforts like that? and i think the 0-2 is the only place we can start other than pregnant women to do primary prevention, so i'm curious what those guidelines might be. >> well, it's early in the -- very early in the process. we, basically, just have outlined or devised the framework to work both, again, with hhs as the lead agency for the dietary guidelines 2015 which will govern officially ages 2 and above, but by agreement we will subsequently release guidelines for 0-2. and i saw just within the last week or so the outline of the work plan that has been devised with hhs and with the center for nutrition policy promotion and, i think, engaged undoubtedly cdc. and there are a whole series of
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consultations as this is developed to really to hear from the academy of pediatrics and the dental community and other nutrition and health organizations. there isn't as much, i'm told -- i'm not a scientist in this regard, but by our folks -- there isn't as much science around on 0-2, but we certainly see, you know, us distresses us if we see a child at a clinic going around with, you know, certainly sugar-sweetened beverages and so on. and i've seen this federally when i've visited federally-qualified health centers when i was a state person. so i fully expect there'll be broad consultation with groups like your own. >> i think we have another question here. >> hi. i want to thank both of you for sharing your update on the initiatives, um, and i can tell you from new york state, i've witnessed some great progress with the, um, school equipment
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grants, farm-to-school, the fresh fruit and vegetable program, even we had a healthy food/healthy community fund for store development which is healthy food financing initiative that's very similar to. so i'd like to push the envelope being from new york and a yankee fan -- [laughter] i want today ask about the dod fresh program and the concept of turning that into cash in lieu of or voucher program similar to the fresh -- ffmp, the farmers' market nutrition program, so that schools will have the option to pressure fresh local food of the highest quality that they can get their hands on at a, um, more efficiently, quicker and handle it within their own districts. thank you. >> well, thank you very much for that. the dod, what she's referring to is the department of defense. we have a contract nationally with the defense 40 gistics agency -- logistics agency out of philadelphia to purchase
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fruits and vegetables for both the school program, but for feeding program on indian reservations. it's about -- it's in excess of $100 million a year. her question, though, can we cash out a portion of that to allow local schools to purchase more fruits and vegetables either locally or on their own, the short answer is, no. and the reason i say, no, is this: most schools that that, the representation or what the dod fresh program represents as a portion of school purchases is a fraction. it's under 20%. where schools have -- they can spend the money that we give them $2.77 per money in whatever way they wish. they can use that, buy it all locally, or they can use a portion of it to buy usda commodities. we've had that question from another state up in another part of -- or in that region of the
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country, and our answer was we don't want to weaken the leveraging we have through dod to add our money to their purchases for military bases and dependents. by pooling our resources, it has an effect on price. and to the extent we start cashing it out, we lose that margin. but we understand, we're very sympathetic to schools wanting to do more local purchasing, if that's what you interesting -- you're interested in. but we say use some of the money you get from us or from private-paying students to that local purchasing. >> so i think we are just about out of time -- is there one more question? >> one or two more. >> okay. >> hi. um, you talked about whether eating healthier is more expensive than, um, or, like, the costs of that. so i was just wondering, i think that eating healthier can be
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just as inexpensive if you know what to do. but i think that a lot of the food knowledge and cooking knowledge has been lost. can you talk about what you guys are doing in terms of food education and educating people on how to eat healthy and know what to do? >> i think that study that i referred to you was just released yesterday or the day before by the economic research service. i'd encourage people to look at it because it's very compelling. they look at food costs by calorie, by value, by portion. and, obviously, timeliness is another factor in all of this. but they point out that fruits and vegetables among food groups are the least costly and that the economist, i know at the briefing i was at, compared the number of calories in a doughnut versus a medium-sized banana, and the banana being, you know, less expensive than the doughnut and far healthier for you. so there are a number of very practical sort of messages that way. but i want to say on that access
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to healthy foods, we're very mindful -- and bill referenced this in his remarks -- we're very mindful of the access question. i know that in the food stamp or the s.n.a.p. program about in excess of 90% of food stamp recipients have access to supermarkets or spend part of their benefits at least once during the month at a supermarket. so, but we also know that the vast majority of stores that are authorized to process those benefits are small stores. and i go into a 7-eleven pretty routinely out in maryland here, and i see a few bananas and a few other things, but by and large it's pretty lean in terms of healthy food. so part of our effort is to, what we're thinking about this depth of stock which to me would be a step forward. not the silver bullet, but certainly a step forward.
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but also the healthy food financing initiative that's been referenced to try to deploy more or to encourage more supermarkets in poorer areas. but it's also education. so part of that is educating, using the collective resources in our nutrition education. and we are, you know, examining that internally. i mentioned in my remarks we spend about a billion dollars a year if you add it all together. the center for nutrition policy, nutrition education for week in the wic program, s.n.a.p. education for people in the food stamp program, the feeding program on indian reservations, all of which have nutrition education components. so jerry mann who's with me today, senior policy adviser, where he is reaching out at our request to cdc, to the indian health service, to a variety of sources in the federal
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government to say what are we doing all of us collectively, and what do we know, and are there additional ways we can really have an effect in terms of nutrition education? i personally am very wedded to and enthusiastic if you can't tell about the my plate. because i think the message is actionable. it's not that food pyramid that was wonderful for professionals but not so practical for the average person. the my plate or mi plato, make half your plate fruits and vegetables. it's pretty basic. and i've seen it in a number of these schools i've been visiting where in the health sciences programs or in the classes, the teachers are using that outline, that template and then having the kids write in, fill in the quadrant, so to speak. and the more we can reinforce this, we've talked about food culture, understanding. that is, again, one of the tools
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that i think is a powerful one that's right before us. >> i guess, i think we -- i think we are out of time. chris, are you coming up for a couple last remarks? >> i just wanted to thank both of our speakers and thank you all very much for attending the food policy governance, and we'll see you next year. thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> today the cato institute hosts a forum on the future of the u.s. navy surface combatant fleet. in light of military spending cuts. representatives from the navy and defense analysts talk about
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the elimination of cruisers, the building of more complex destroyers and the introduction of a new class of small service combat sips. the live forum gets under way at noon over on c-span. and later, john paul stevens speaks to the annual meeting of the american law institute here in washington. the event brings together judges, attorneys and legal scholars from across the country to address various legal issues. you can watch his remarks live beginning at 2 p.m. eastern, also on c-span. >> i think this is one of those markets that i think people vote for the, um, don't vote for the party. i think this is the city of wichita that votes for the candidate. even though this is heavily republican, midwest which is dynamic and it's great, but i think you're seeing more of that in the recent years here in the midwest. they are really voting a little bit more for what the person?? stands for. >> june 2nd and 3rd, booktv and american history tv explore
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the heritage and literary culture of wichita, kansas.? >> the first place i want to show you is the monger house, and it is the only remaining, original structure from the 1865-1870 time. and it was a very important be building in hour history in that it is a residence, but it's also the headquarters of the wichita town and land company that came down here to create, shall we say, the city of wichita. >> watch for booktv and american history tv in wichita on june 2nd and 3rd on c-span2 and 3. >> a house subcommittee recently held an oversight hearing on the effectiveness of the u.s. fired a manager. witnesses included the agency's administrator and other officials from fire prevention groups. authorization of the fired a manager expires september 30th. senators joe lieberman and susan collins have introduced legislation that would reauthorize funding through
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2017. the hearing runs just over an hour. >> the subcommittee on technology and innovation will come to order. good morning. welcome to today's hearing entitled -- [inaudible] fired a manager priorities n. front of you are packets containing the disclosures for today's witnesses. i now recognize myself for five minutes for an opening statement. today's hearing is being held to review the fire service community's priorities for the future of the united states fired a manager, the usfa. the usfa was established following the 1973 report of the national commission on fire prevention and scroll -- control which recommended the creation of a federal fire agency to provide support to state and local governments and private fire organization in their efforts to reduce fire deaths, injuries and property loss. the usfa is a substantial public
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safety mission. although the country's fire death rate continues to decline, it is higher than more than half of the industrialized countries. the usfa prepares first responders and health care leaders to react to hazard and terrorism emergencies. it sports the efforts of state and local governments by providing training for first responders, educational programs and targeted outreach for communities and conducting and coordinating the research and development of technologies for the fire be service. the usfa also assists with data collection, analysis and the dissemination of best practices for the nation's fire prevention and control in emergency medical services activities. in recent years there's been an escalation of severe wildfires resulting in home and property loss. this can be attributed to expanding development in wildland areas which include an abundance of burnable brush and trees. 2011 was an exceptional year for wildfires in the united states.
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and major blazes affected my home state of arizona. in late may 2011, the wallow fire raced across eastern arizona forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents and burning more than 469,000 acres, making it the largest in arizona's history. the fire's believed to have started after a campfire blew out of control and spread quickly due to dry weather and fierce winds. over 4,000 firefighters were assigned to the wallow fire. currently, there are hundreds of firefighters working to contain at least four blazes in central and eastern arizona. this represents just a fraction of the thousands of first responders and firefighters who risk their lives each and every day battling fires across the country. the usfa supports these individuals. they don't take their responsibilities lightly, and i as an authorizer of the usfa, neither do i. the testimony of our witnesses this morning should help the members of the subcommittee understand the priorities of usfa. in order to better enable the
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usfa's continued efforts to reduce fire deaths, injuries and property loss. we thank our witnesses for being here today, and we look forward to your testimony. i now recognize the gentle lady from maryland, the ranking member of the subcommittee, ms. edwards, for her opening statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you for calling this morning's hearing to examine the activities and priorities of the united states fired fired a man. i'm very pleased to welcome chief mitchell so we can hear more about his vision for the administration, particularly pleased to welcome my good friend, kevin o'connor, as well as our other witnesses. and i want to thank you for taking the time out of your schedules to be with us. the fired a manager was created in 1974 with the goal of reducing the number of fire-related deaths by half from a staggering 12,000 per year. through the good work of the fired a manager and our first respond beers, we met this goal in 1988. the number of fire-related deaths continues to decline, but unfortunately our country's fire-related death rate is still
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one of the highest in the industrialized world, and it's estimated that in 2009 fire cost the united states over $331 billion in economic and human losses. chairman quayle just spoke about the loss in his own state. the fired fired a manager contio play a central role in making our communities safer. through research and fire fighting training and for increasing fire prevention and preparedness through public education ask awareness activities. certainly, fires are still a major problem in the country, and the fire administration's continued leadership is critical. however, we can't ignore the fact that our firefighters are not just fighting fires anymore. on any given day, our firefighters are rushing to the scene in response to over 72,000 calls that range from scope from a house fire to a car crash to a hazardous materials spill to a
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medical emergency. the truth is that our firefighters are our first responders in all types of emergencies, including terrorist attacks and natural disasters. and the range of training and education they need to be successful must expand and evolve to reflect this reality. as part of the fire administration's last reauthorization in 2008, we etch sized the need -- emphasized the need to advance training in the, for example, emergency medical services and hazardous material response. i'll be interested in hearing today about the status of those advances and learn from our witnesses whether the fire administration's training courses are, in fact, meeting the expanded, all-hazards needs of today's fire service. i'm also interested in hearing about the current state of fire-related research, any emerging research areas or existing gaps and how the fire administration is contributing to these efforts. i'd also like to learn more about how they prioritize research and investment and how it coordinates its research
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activities with other federal entities engaged in fire-related research. including the national institutes of standards and technology and the science and technology directorate within the department of homeland security. more or importantly, however, i'm interested in hearing recommendations or suggestions about what ought to be included in the next fire administration reauthorization bill. as you're aware, the current authorization from the prior administration expires in the just over four months. i'm pleased that we're holding this hearing today, and i think it's an important first step. and i sincerely hope that the decision to call this hearing is an indication that there are plans to draft and move a reauthorization bill through this committee in the coming weeks. i hope the chairman will be able to provide some insight into these plans this morning. and as you may be aware, our colleagues in the senate passed a fire administration reauthorization bill through the committee on homeland security and governmental affairs just yesterday. i believe we also have an obligation and an opportunity to
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insure that the fire administration's authority continues uninterrupted, and i look forward to working with the chairman towards that end. again, mr. chairman, thank you for holding this important hearing. the fire administration plays an essential role in insuring that our firefighters who are so critical to the safety and resiliency of our nation have the tools they need to protect us and keep us out of harm's way. i'm looking forward to hearing from our witnesses about the tools congress can provide the fire administration that will allow them to assist fire didn'ts across -- departments across the country, and i yield the balance of my time. >> thank you, ms. edwards. if there are members who wish to submit opening statements, they will be added to the record at this point. at this time, we'll proceed to hear from each of our witnesses in order. our first witness is chief ernest -- next we'll hear from
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dr. john hall jr., director of the national fire protection association. dr. hall has been active in fire able sis and fire research for nearly 35 years. our third witness is chief jim critchley. chief critchley represents the tucson fire department in my home state of arizona and also currently serves as the president of the western fire chiefs' association. our final witness is mr. kevin o'connor, assistant to the general president for the international association of fire tight -- firefighters. spoken testimony is limited to five minutes each. after all witnesses have spoken, members of the committee will have five minutes each to ask questions. i now recognize our first witness, the united states fired a morer, ernest mitchell. >> good morning, chairman quayle, ranking member edwards and distinguished members of the committee. my name is ernest mitchell jr., i'm an assistant administrator at the federal emergency management agency and the united states fire, administrator in charge of the united states fire
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administration at the department of homeland security. it is, indeed, an honor to appear before you today to discuss the u.s. fire administration. the fire administration is committed to providing national leadership to forcer a solid foundation for our stakeholders in prevention, preparedness and response. in my testimony today,ly share on overview of the administration's core functions, major priorities and present activities and goals. despite making progress over time, fire losses in the united states have been higher than in most of the industrialized world. this has held true in both fire deaths and dollar loss rates. thousands of americans die each year, and thousands more are injured, property losses reach billions of dollars. average annual fire losses in the united states greatly exceed those from floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural disasters combined in our country. the fire administration is a national leader in providing fire safety and prevention programs to help decrease tragic losses.
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we also lead the way in preparing communities to respond to fires and other hazards in the line of fema's whole community approach to emergency management. we are supporting the efforts of local communities to reduce the number of fires and fire deaths and champion federal fire prevention and control efforts and coordinate information about fire programs throughout the country. there are four traditional stars of the fire administration and one relatively new, a budding star that we have initiated more recently. one is data collection. the national fire data center administers a national system for collecting, analyzing and disseminating data and information on fire and other energy incidents to state and local governments and the fire community. two is through public education and awareness, through partnerships and special initiatives, the fire administration involves the fire service, the media, other federal agencies and safety interest groups in the development and delivery of fire be safety awareness in education programs. three is training.
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the national fire academy offers educational opportunities for the advanced professional development of the mid-level and senior fire and emergency medical services officers and the allied professionals involved in fire prevention and life safety activities. four is research and technology. through research, testing and evaluation, the fire administration works with public and private entities to promote and improve fire and life safety. research and special studies are conducted on fire detection, suppression and notification systems as well as issues related to firefighter and emergency responder health and safety. five, and the more recent, is technical assistance and response. it's a recent initiative for the fire administration in developing a national firefighter deployment strategy. the mission's purpose is to establish an overall, multidisciplined response in recovery support mechanism for fema by establishing a structured approach engaging and enhassing the nation's approach
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to emergency medical services skill sets, thereby expanding the capacity for responding and providing faster, coordinated efforts to contain and minimize losses of life and property during disasters. within the scope of these efforts, it is essential that we work on multiple levels and with a wide variety of partners. we engage governmental and private stakeholders and partners in evaluating programs that will address the emerging fire response needs. one example is our collaboration with the national fire protection association on the home fire sprinkler coalition, and the mission of that coalition is to inform consumers about life-saving benefits of installing home fire sprinkler systems. the more recent or emerging star has been utilized already at this point to respond to disasters. and as a result, it has had some success. we provided technical expertise and assistance during the development of all hazard
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management teams across the country. we have responded to and demonstrated effectiveness in the 2011 flooding in colorado, alabama, georgia and during this april's tornadoes in texas. graduates of our highly-sought-after programs have contributed to and participated in these events. given the dynamics of our times, the fire administration has identified five broad goals as a framework to provide national leadership on fire safety issues. we will continue to pursue these goals through the existing programs while evaluating issues and instituting new initiatives relevant to our current and future operating climate. thank you, mr. chairman, for giving me this opportunity to appear before you today. your continued support is greatly appreciated. i would be glad to answer any questions you might have. >> thank you very much, administrator mitchell. i now recognize dr. hall to present his testimony. >> mr. chairman, members of congress, my name is john hall, and i am here on behalf of the
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national fire protection association to communicate our very strong support for the reauthorization of the u.s. fire administration. next year marks the 40th anniversary of america burning. of the 90 recommendations in that report, the first was for establishment of a u.s. fire administration, quote, to provide a national focus for the nation's fire problem, unquote. the report also identified tasks appropriate to the federal role in what would continue to be primarily a local responsibility. quote: technical and educational assistance to state and local governments, collecting and analyzing fire information, conducting research and development in certain areas and providing financial assistance when adequate fire protection lies beyond a community's means, unquote. the usfa has maintained this mandated focus throughout its existence. the report also set out ambitious goals saying, quote: a reduction of 50 percent in deaths, injuries and property losses is quite possible within
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the next generation, unquote. how has america done on this goal? civilian fire deaths te can kleined by about 60%. fire firefighter on-duty fatalities declined by half, civilian fire injuries by about 40%, firefighter injuries by about a third and direct property damage by about one-quarter. even so, we still have some of the highest fire loss rates in the developed world. we know how far we have come, but we also know how much better we can do because we see greater safety in countries like us. and thanks to the national fire incident reporting system, nfers, use with the the nfpa survey, we have a greater ability to target problems and to design and evaluate programs than any other country in the world. in the years since the usfa was founded, the fire service has transformed itself into an all-hazard emergency response force. reported fires have declined by more than half since 1980. however, hazardous material responses have more than
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doubled, and medical aid calls have more than tripled. imagine a gasoline tank truck rolling over on a highway in a small community. the truck was built and loaded in this other states and crashed on an interstate built and maintained by the federal government. the fire department will be expected to contain the spill and clean up in accordance with state and national environmental regulations using training and personnel/equipment in compliance with national consensus standards. it is far from easy to find the local responsibility in such an incident. now add in natural disasters, terrorist attacks and fire scenarios unheard of two decades ago such as a bushing building with -- burning building with a roof covered with photovoltaic solar power cells. we have asked our fire service to perform more varied tasks with more rules whenever something goes wrong. they have responded to every challenge and everything we have asked of them. but it takes a nation to save a village. they need our help. for nearly 40 years, the usfa
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has been there. recent surveys of fire service needs conducted by nfpa in cooperation with the usfa have found the following: by comparison with national standards, the fire service has extensive needs for every type of resource. fire departments serving the smallest commitments are most likely to have needs. although the needs are still great, there have been, has been great progress. the assistance to firefighters and safer grant programs have been well targeted to real needs and collectively effective in reducing the needs they targeted. america burning identified research as a priority. the usfa has filled research gaps and complemented research partners when appropriate. some major, current or recent projects the usfa has led or supported include the following: the next generation of home fire alarms, the next generation of firefighter personal protective clothing, safety in the wildland/urban interface and
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decision support tools for dealing with unwanted alarms. nfpa salutes chief ernie mitchell, newly-confirmed fired a morer, and latest in a distinguished line of leaders who have headed the usfa. we look toward to working with him. so to sum up, nfpa urges you to reauthorize the usfa. we urge you to provide requested funding, its research program, the academies' training program and nfers. the usfa does great work, they have made a great difference, and they can and will do more all in keeping with the original vision of an agency that would provide a national focus on fire through effective actions appropriate to a federal role. be thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you on behalf of nfpa, and like chief mitchell, i will be happy to answer your questions. >> thank you, dr. hall. now recognize chief critchley for five minutes to present his testimony. >> good morning, chairman quayle
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and ranking member edwards. i am chief critchley of the tucson fire department and the president of the western fire chiefs' association. i am also a member of the international association of fire chiefs. i thank the committee for the opportunity to testify about the vital work that the u.s. fire administration does for america's fire and emergency medical service. it is important to recognize the major accomplishments that have taken place since the usfa was created in the 1970s. in 1978, 172 firefighters died in the line of duty. in 2011 we had 83 firefighters, a decline of more than 50%. in 1978 we had, we have seen the number of civilian fire deaths also drop over 50% to a little over 3,000 in 2010. united states fire administration has played a major role in these accomplishments through fire service training, public education and research. as a local chief, i would like to especially emphasize the importance of the national fire
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academy which used online training -- online learning, train the trainer programs, on-campus programs and other educational tools to train more than half a million responders in 2007. um, through 2011. i am proud to be one of the more than 6,000 arizonan is who has completed the classes during this time period. a highlight is the executive fire officer program. this program is a gold standard for developing transformative fire officers ready to deal with the nation's future challenges. as a local fire service instructor, the nfa provides educational material based on national best practices to help me train the next generation of fire service leaders. this training provides interoperability at the incident scene of many national disasters. the ufsa also provides action through the national fire data center and the national fire incident reporting system. the nfirs allows local fire
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departments to report or incidents in their area and identify national trends. for example, i use the usfa report to compare their statistical data in the incidents that i have in tucson. this capability allows me to prepare for the future threats that may, that -- to my citizens. .. of only 45 million is not a large federal spending program. outward, the agency played an
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effective role in the inherently governmental function of protecting the american public. we also would like to express the support for the efforts to clarify that the u.s. as a should be the lead agency of non-wildland incidents in the emergency support function number four. the firefighting at act. the u.s. as a and the use of force service come have a memorandum of understanding which allows the usfa to act as a support agency. local fire departments work well with the force of service and courtney wildland fires. however, based on its relationship with the nation's fire and emergency services, we think the m.o.u. should continue with usfa playing a strong and primary role in structural events, terrorist attacks on non-wildland national wildland fire incident. we've support the establishment of firefighters that can quickly deployed in the event of a major all hazards disaster. as we witnessed in arizona last
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year, local fire departments are the first on the scene and the last to leave. these support teams can provide a major benefit to the fire chiefs by helping the incident management recovery activities in working with a state, tribal, and local agencies. current authorization for the u.s. of a express on september 30. in the senate, senators joe lieberman and susan collins have introduced markup 2218. this bill would authorize funding for the usfa through fiscal year 2017. on half of the leadership of the nation's fire and ems services, i asked the committee consider companion legislation this year. i would like to thank this committee for been continued support of the nation's fire service over the years. we have made major progress in reducing the tragedy of fireballs in the past 30 years. however, we have much work to do. thank you for holding this hearing and i look forward to answering any of your questions. thank you. >> thank you, chief critchley. i now recognize mr. o'connor for
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his opening statement. >> thank you, i'm kevin o'connor represent international association of firefighters whose 300,000 members proudly serve communities in each of the nation's 435 congressional district. i'm especially pleased to be before the subcommittee because i'm currently a constituent member john sarbanes -- will be a proud constituent of the ranking member. as firefighters take additional responsibilities and expanding our capabilities to meet total response needs of our communities, so, too, must the fire administration evolve to the 21st century fire service. today the firefighters whose primary function was to simply put out fires. today's firefighters are well-educated, highly trained and skilled, all-purpose emergency responders with broad responsibilities ranging from ems, hazmat response, wmd, on all hazards response. most significantly, your
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firefighters are always the first boots on the ground for any man-made or natural disaster. the prevalence of fire-based ems delivery systems requires the agency to fully integrate ems training and preparedness into its mission. although usfa is beginning to move in that direction we want to ensure that ems be afforded appropriate recognition and attention. while the fire administration continues to integrate all hazards training and preparedness into all of its programs, it must work to change the perception it is primarily focused simply on fire. one way that problem may be solved is to simply change the agency's name to reflect this current mission. the u.s. fire ems and all hazards administration, or similar brand, would better describe the expanded role of those of modern fire service and the agency. after the well-publicized problems from hurricane katrina, problem -- him usfa is pretty
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working to develop a better means of cordoning existing state and local response for disaster deployment. currently the agency is considering organizing firefighters and other responders to support fema disaster response and recovery efforts. the i a as that fully supports this endeavor. but we must ensure that firefighters are appropriate to utilize and deployed during any disaster. during the delayed response to hurricane katrina, fema called up 1000 firefighters to serve as community relations officers, tasking them with the distribution, instead of the point is well trained responders to the front line where the presence was desperately need. frankly, it was a tragic waste of resources and capability. the iaff hopes to partner with usfa and fema to ensure the personal resources are properly identified and utilize during emergencies. the best way to a published that goal is to establish a national firefighter credential.
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in the past too many well-meaning firefighters have self dispatched in emergency but many of those firefighters have lacked the requisite training and experience to operate effectively. national credentialing system will alleviate that uncertainty by based on training and certification levels. this will enable incident commanders to make the most appropriate use of the most valuable resource, personnel. the establishment or credentialing system has been in developing fema since 2006. there is simply no excuse for this long delay. the project needs to be completed. most importantly, usfa serves as a voice of the fire service in federal government. unfortunately, the fire administration's ability to represent the fire service at the federal level is compromised by a lack of adequate funding. usfa has long struggled in sufficient and resources. the current authorization level must be maintained for the
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agency to carry out its mission. and i urge this subcommittee to retain or even increase the current authorization level. rest assured, we will be making the same case to your colleagues and appropriations. lastly i would like to address a prior congressional recommendation that and argue usfa has been slow to implement. the u.s. fire academy is professional development of fire service through training and education. today the academy offers distance learning train, locally sponsored centers throughout the state to expand its ability to serve individuals who are unable to attend training. to expand the academy's reach, congress authorized usfa to partner with nationally recognized organizations to establish fire service training programs to deliver a portion of the agency's dream. organization such as the iaff provide excellent partners to conduct real-world training a few institutions can match. through such partnership, usfa could easily cost effectively increase the number of firefighters that benefit from
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this training program. we look forward to working with chief mitchell and his role and hopefully into mending this program. this concludes my testimony. i thank you for the opportunity to speak before today, and like my colleague, ready to answer any question. >> now i want to thank all of the witnesses for the testimony and also for being right at the five minute button. that is a rarity on capitol hill, and i thank you for your punctuality. i want to remind members of the committee rules. limit questioning to five minutes. the chair would at this point open the round of questions and recognize myself for five minutes. chief mitchell, as we were examined the usfa, we are interested in what changes should be made to the maintenance of authorities. currently serves as a sub board of forest service and the federal emergency management agency, emergency support function number four, firefighting and expect these doctors are signed at the discretion of homeland security. some in the fire service
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community have recommended the usfa should be elevated to cult leader with the u.s. forest service to assure more effective and local response to what the u.s. of a. be able to handle this responsibility? and to your nose, as the department explore the possibility of making this change with the forest service? >> thank you, mr. chairman. yes, the short answer is yes, we have explored it. in fact, we have come up with a couple of initiatives that would allow us to participate more in response. we are meeting with fema response of leadership at this time, this very week. and also meeting with the u.s. forest service to discuss how we could coordinate dual coordinators within usfa 4. we have a lot of ideas on how we can do that, and partnering with the other fire service, nongovernmental organizations
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and state and regional agencies to provide some level of coordination to disaster response across the country through some of the existing agreements and contracts. and so, there was a point where we wondered if we had that authority. we talked with our legal folks and we do find that fema administrator has the authority to write us into that program. so right now we are just trying to coordinate that effort with the forest service and do in a way that is acceptable to all the parties involved. >> great, thank you. and chief critchley, how would having the u.s. -- usfa leader a co-leader to the u.s. forest service under usfa 4 strengthen and complement the fires response to all hazards? >> at this time, we are learning the same incident management type that the forest service uses, yet we have some specific
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entities, specific duties that we do in an event that the forest service model doesn't address in the hazmat, technical rescue during a big fire scene. i think this just will build up the strength of it if we are both part of that decision-making instead of just one and then coming to a support agency. if we're both there with our voices think this is the best way to go, i think that's a much better in the product and having to wait for support. >> thank you. and chief mitchell, leveraging our anti-underway to different agencies, there's ongoing research at dhs, and this fire safety research is looking at fire retardant materials to protect firefighters. how does the usfa chordate its research with nist, with the department of homeland security
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and defense? >> we meet regularly both, which is added and on site meeting last week at nist. we partner with nfpa. we partner with the underwriters laboratories. we partner with, we're talking right now with recently with oak ridge laboratories about new smoke technology -- smoke detectors technology. we continue have communications through our team that works on technology and research at u.s. -- usfa instead constantine occasion. we gather input from our fire service stakeholders, and the other nongovernmental organizations across the country, and in the fire service. has to need, we communicate those with the technology agencies and laboratories and partners. and try to see that our needs are being met by the research community. >> have you experienced any sort
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of problems with actually getting the level of cooperation between the different agencies? sometimes we hear that it's hard to get information from one agency, working with another agency. >> i've only recently come in to the federal government. and so the level of bureaucracy -- >> you can say, go ahead and. >> that you maybe need to go through to go from one step to the next is a little different than local government. but no, the people engaged are very cooperative. i think though that sometimes the process and our level of resource that supports us being engage in the research process probably limits our ability to move forward faster. but we work with them to the extent that we can. >> thank you very much. i now recognize the ranking member, ms. edwards, for five
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minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you to our witnesses. my staff actually just recently had a chance to spend a day at our fire training academy, and i have to say for the work of firefighters and our chief, chief critchley, you know, on the ground, that's not for the faint of heart. so i really appreciate what you do for all of our communities. in your testimony, mr. o'connor and chief critchley, both of you, and will allow you to answer this question out of respect for administrator mitchell, and i'll share with you want to you both expressed concerns over the administration's current level of funding and you describe the impact, this declining budget is having on the fire administrations activities. and specifically, chief critchley, you mentioned that the fire administration will be able to complete modernization of the fire incident reporting
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system, the national fire incident reporting system, and that a number of courses offered at the fire academy will be unlimited and new courses will not be developed. i wonder if you can comment on the ability of the fire administration to fulfill its mission, especially as you know what the needs are, both for the western states but at the most local level. and i wonder if the two of you could comment on what these budget constraints mean, and what level of authorized funding do you think ought to be included in a reauthorizing bill as we move forward through congress? chief? >> so, to the first point about the losses that we've seen in the unit, into u.s. fire administration pacifica, the national fire academy, we have seen a reduction in the number of courses. wide-ranging courses from hazardous material to prevention to deployment for command and control. lots of those have been reduced. we've seen wonderful program called the trade program that is
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also looking at a reduction in funding. in the trade program is where i met fire chief ga
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we can get real-time numbers. i believe that's an incredible -- >> what you're sharing with us is that a reduction in the budget, because it's a fairly mean agency has real impact locally. mr. o'connor, to have a comment about that? >> just to piggyback on what the chief reference. we all recognize that fire service is inherently global operation. but the chairman reference the landmark america's burning of 1973. frankly congress recognized federal government as a means to the agency to this voice of our service and you describe the need, as crude. some of my testimony was predicated on the ms. of issues such as credentialing. i don't offer that as a criticism. with the limited resources diminishing, usfa is having a hard time doing its job.
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the simple reality is the authorization level is great. it needs to be at least to the current level. that it serving is to be appropriate. this is a link agency. there's not a lot of fat and its supporting over 300,000 professional firefighters and public twice and have as many volunteers from across the country in every community and we just would congress to recognize that this is an efficient use of the federal fund. it's protecting communities and that really is governments most basic responsibility. >> administrator mitchell, if i could just ask you, in terms of what firefighters need and departments need all across the country, some of the things credentialing and others, you would like to capacity to be able to deliver those things, is that correct? >> yes. i would like to expand our capacity, and really, since i've been at the fire administration i thought we had actual people working there. they have a plan that is
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outstanding. we do not have really the resources to carry all elements through expeditiously. so the productions have limited and retorted our ability to move forward with some of the newer programs that we need to move forward. >> thank you. and i yield. >> i recognize the chairman of the full committee, the gentleman from texas, mr. hall for five minutes. mr. chairman, i do think you and i thank this panel. you have such an important job and it's important to the smallest group of firefighters to the big cities. i think your testimony, and you've given your time and the services you render really ought to be appreciated by this committee. and i think we do. along the line of ms. edwards questions, she and i kind of work as a team a lot of times. i want to enlarge a low bit on
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her questions and some of the answers that you have given. my dad was a firefighter in the smallest county in the state of texas, 254 counties. they were the smallest. they had a fire department, one truck. the simon would go off at night and nobody could hear it. i could hear it, too. it would wake me up. my dad would get up and run all the way to the fire station because they wanted to be there, the first one there got to drive the one truck they had. there was always a race. windows all over they would come home, i would ask that can how did it go? he said, well we saved a lot. usually was his answer. but it means a lot. we have to rely on you. i guess, administrator mitchell, i'll ask you, how does the united states fire administration and how do support the rural fire departments? i have a lot of in my fourth congressional district there. how do you support those? i guess the fundamental difference is in the nature of
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the rural fire problems compared to the u.s. fire problem as a whole. and i'll say this but it sadly and have a 9/11 to get really people to appreciate you all the way they should. a lot of communities are protected by volunteer fire departments and face their unique challenges, agricultural fires, fires in wildland and urban areas. does usfa offer training especially care to volunteer firefighters? and what type of resources have you developed to assist fire departments operating in rural communities? i guess -- you want me to repeat that? >> i think i get it, thank you, congressman. spent do you want me to repeat at? >> yes, we have courses specifically tailored for volunteers. largely what we have are offering his courses we work with volunteers to try to make
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them more available, recognizing the difficulties, having the time to get additional training, so we work more to expand the online offerings into the field courses that go out through states, state fire training to much of the basic training is done locally. and so those are handled outside. what we do try to do, or do on a larger basis is a lot of the online. with respect to rural areas and wildlands, we have courses in development right now for wildland and urban interface fire star trek though structures close to the wildland they went wildland coarser being offered to the national wildland courtney kube. so i guess the overall and is that we are reaching out, trying to make the courses more available to the volunteers and working with a volunteer association also that helps that to happen. >> i thank you for that and i think it's very important and i yield back my time, mr.
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chairman. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. and i now recognize ms. domenici for five minutes. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i want to join the other members of this committee in thanking you all for the work that you do to keep our communities safe. administrator mitchell, in your testimony, you talk about the indirect costs of fire. and estimate that according to your testimony here, the indirect costs which include things like lost business, medical expenses, temporary lodging, psychological damage, maybe as much as eight and half times higher than the direct cost of fire. that emphasizes the importance, training and education and prevention. and i know that right now many communities, not only in my district and state but across this country come are struggling and don't have the resources they need at the local level.
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to do all the work that they need to do. and so what i would like you to do, maybe dr. hall, because you mentioned this in your testimony, can you talk about the progress that's been made with the areas that are targeted for the assistance to firefighters and grant programs? can you comment about how these programs have really contributed to addressing the challenges that are faced by our local fire service? >> yes i'd be glad to. thank you. we have conducted three needs assessments of surveys of the fire service. as the second and third we accompanied with a matching analysis, looking at how the needs had been affected by the grass, people got in the years before the survey was conducted. what we found was that the
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particular types of needs that were especially targeted by the afg and safer grants tended to show the biggest improvements over the 10 years between the first and last. these improvements were all sizes of communities from the big cities to the small rural volunteer fire department areas that mr. hall was talking about. so, what we got was the programs, the grants are very well targeted. they are very effective. the only limit on the degree of improvement in need we've seen is that there's limited funding. they have accomplished as much as could have been expected given the amount of the grants that were out there, and so too is the roadmap was fairly clear. if you want to get these needs really far down, you need to come as the other speakers have said, maintain the funding and if possible increase the funding for these grants.
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another thing that we looked at in the grants ogrin, and a needs assessment, was training. do they have the training, do they have the certification for various different tasks. and here again, we saw improvements in need but still very great needs. and this ties back to the outreach programs that are being conducted from the academy. >> thank you. now, in my state of oregon we pride ourselves in sustainability and green building, so when someone mentioned the rooftop covered with photovoltaic cells, that sounded like back on. would you talk a little bit about the work that is being done to make sure that the new methods and tactics are developed for fighting fires in green buildings? >> i think that was my statement that you are reacting to, congresswoman, thank you. it is an active project at nfpa that is in cooperation with the fire administration and with
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other key entities. to try to develop best practices, how should you a just your way of fighting a fire in order to identify that this particular hazard is there when you show up, and then to decide how you avoid shock hazards and other sorts of things in the course of fighting the fire. it's not only going very well in terms of producing results, but i think it's something of a role model project for how new hazards can be incorporated into the best practices of the fire service in general. >> thank you very much, and i yield back. thank you, mr. chairman. >> i now recognize the gentleman from illinois, mr. lipinski, for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i think all the witnesses for the testimony. obviously, very critical issue here, talking about fire safety. end of the investment of both mr. o'connor and mr. mitchell, you both highlight one area in
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which you think the usfa can do more in training. and mr. o'connor, you specifically mentioned that usfa has been slow to input congresses recommendations, that the usfa partner with organizations and establish fire training programs. so want to ask mr. o'connor, can you tell me, tell us more about iaff training programs and how they can can help the u.s. fire academy expand its reach? >> i think in all fairness to the academy, part of the issue is resources, we talked previously. but interview the national fire academy -- people were able to be in residence there and actually travel to emmitsburg. it's wonderful training. and the outreach of state training academies has been magnificent. but i think this committee and congress, or use authorization, recognize there's other opportunities. while we are very proud of the iaff i wouldn't limited to simply our organization.
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there are a lot of folks throughout the fire service organization representing firefighters of all types that have training programs. for example, one i know best is the iaff. we have several grant programs funded through the departmen def energy, department of homeland security, and department of transportation that are predicated on peer-to-peer training t. to essentially we have training programs that are certified to meet the standards and the approval of the fire academy and other sources of the fire service, but they're delivered the economically at the local level. meaning if there's a need for training course in hypothetically in towns in oregon we would find a structure that is already trained and certified in portland. their day job may be a firefighter in portland or bedford or somewhere else, but they would be dispatched to this area and basically only be compensated for the peers there actually turning. they are spread geographically across the nation so it's a very efficient and economical way of delivering the training. that country of instructors
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currently exists, and if we were contracted through some mechanism, be allowed that opportunity put these programs in the field, and can't i don't limit the simply to the ias of but it is a good model of training are especially effective because it's not just an academic study, it is an actual firefighter who may be an expert in hazmat response, training other firefighters in that discipline. so there's that natural respect of camaraderie and ditches a very good way of expanding training profiles and getting a curriculum in the field. >> thank you. i want to turn first my time over to the issue of fire grants, and in 2009, began in 2011 i help lead legislature to authorize the fire grant program. unfortunately neither of these initiatives have been passed into law. the reauthorization legislation would make these grants more accessible to fire departments
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across the country and bring stability to crucial source of funds for local fire authorities. dr. hall, in your testimony you speak to the importance of these grant programs and effects they had in our communities. can you comment on the importance of reauthorizing programs and the thoughts of proposed changes in the reauthorizing language? >> thank you, congressman. yes. we have considerable analysis which was done in association with our needs assessment surveys to demonstrate the good targeting and the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the grants programs in all kinds of different resource areas. we have made the results of those studies available to every member of congress and their staff and will be happy to discuss these things in detail at your discretion. i do not honestly have any suggestions or thoughts on the
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reauthorizing language. i know our washington, d.c. office would be more than happy to discuss that kind of detail with any of you and your staffs as you go forward. >> i appreciate that. hopefully, i will certainly continue to take advantage of that opportunity, hope my colleagues to also. and with that i would you back the remainder of my time spirit and now i'm going to open up to a second round for those who like to ask additional questions. i now recognize myself for five minutes. there's been a lot of discussion about resources. and i understand that over the course of a number different years, that the authorization level has been up to $79 for the usfa, and then the appropriations act again in much lower than that. i think in the 2013 house funding bill basically it
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provides $42.46 million, which is right about the same level the request from the president in his budget. i know that that's not the level that you would like, but i do think that this hearing has been very informative to see what the priorities of the usfa and how we can support your endeavors in very tough budgetary times. i think that providing an authorization level that is much higher than when really we can afford, i think is a little bit irresponsible, but i do want to continue to go down and see what priorities and what we can do to make sure that we are giving the support that's necessary, even though we might not be getting to the levels that you would like. so i did appreciate everybody's testimony. i want to go to chief critchley. chief mitchell was talking about how wildfires are becoming more significant threat. agenda, arizona is currently battling for wildfires in the central and eastern part of the state and we had the wallow fire last year, and we continue to
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see this. can you kind of give me some insight on why our wildfires becoming a more significant threat? is a forest management policies such as ensuring where keeping fuel loads low and trees and to a healthy level? or patterns of development because people moving closer to for us, or is it a combination of both? >> thank you. i would say it's a combination of both. i'm not, as well-versed on the fuels management program that they have but i can promise you that as we grow as a community, we are reaching out into areas that were never designed for fire trucks to get into to take care. so as we expand the size of our cities, or the movement out into the urban interface area, we just increase the number of buildings that are going to be hurt during a wild land fire.
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so i believe it is both, but primarily it's the way we are managing our growth. >> and chief mitchell, do you have any thoughts on why they are becoming more significant? >> again, i'm not as familiar with the fuel management part of it, although you know, we are engaged with another agency now, and studying fuel management and how fuels management versus phi response and prevention all interact. but coming up in the fire service in southern california, i know a large part of the problem was based upon more building and living in the interface zones. the lack of fire resistant construction in those areas and some of the other preventative and mitigation measures that could and should be enacted to prevent loss. >> okay, thank you. and dr. hall, it's been described in one of the usfa
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training challenges is reaching out to all firefighters across the country an increase of online class and distance training. has the nfpa perform any research to try to quantify the impact of training programs and as the nfpa to specifically measure the effectiveness of remote training? >> thank you, mr. chairman. the analysis that we have conducted is not at the level of detail. we have results that indicate that the training situation for the fire service has improved to a limited degree between the first of our needs assessment surveys and the more recent survey, but we have not been in a position to look at specific data about people reached or the efficiency of particular methods of delivery. >> okay. thank you very much. and i now recognize the ranking member, ms. edwards. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you for this second round of questions.
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i want to go back to the issue of credentialing because i recognize that, you know, we have a lot of local fire departments, firefighting is essentially a local activity, but we also have a number of circumstances, particularly major disasters, where we are calling on one jurisdiction to support another jurisdiction. and for me, this is where the question of credentialing comes forward because i think it's really important for us to make sure that whomever is responding in what ever jurisdiction has the same capacities so that they kind of fit right into the program under able to respond appropriately. so, mr. o'connor, can you elaborate on the recommendation for credentialing and explain why you think it's important, and then if chief mitchell could comment on the status. because i think mr. o'connor, in your testimony, you indicated that there's some lagging because it's been in the hopper
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sends 2006. >> yes. i mean, this was something that was brought the day after 9/11 and hurricane katrina. you have articulated very well. i don't think anyone on the federal level wants to suggest to local committees what the level of fire could and should be or ought to be. that is up to a local community, recognize that we don't want to try to end thing with it. however, for those larger scale instance, whether it's flooding in the plains or hurricane coming ashore, a wildfire, whatever the incident is, you need an appropriate trained skilled responder to actually handle that type of the crisis. and throughout very many fire departments, as you know, i was a firefighter, structural firefighter, i don't have the training and wildland wildfire. so he would be useless to have -- so the point of this is to make sure that incident commanders and their son tide of clearinghouse or databasing, firefighters and departments are
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actually typecast so, you know, what training, what level of responders trained. it simply makes common sense. and i think everyone recognizes that. i also recognize that this was not specifically passed to the u.s. fire administration. it was also in the agency, but it's something that frankly is a responsibility of the incident command and the people responded. and it's why it is so important that it is follow through. >> administrator mitchell then, if you could comment about what the status is and sort of where we're moving on the. i mean, if this is something we've been considering since 2006, and my recollection is, in the 9/11 disaster where you have people who, understandably department who wanted to respond in a very unique fire situation, you could see him making sure that you the right people responding, could be lifesaving. >> yes.
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i worked in a very active system myself for many years. we did recognize how important it is that people are able to work together at the essential levels for their own safety and the to be effective. i have been advised that the fire administration, fire academy, did a credentialing review and took input from the fire service and made a recommendation in terms of fema. i would have to, back in 2005 or six. i would have to get back to you on what that status is since our recommendation went forward. >> that would be extreme helpful. i mean, it's 2012, and jenna, it would seem to me that if a recommendation has been made from the experts, then there should be some way that that gets expedited for considerati consideration, you know, six years is a good way to expedite things. thank you. and then lastly, chief mitchell,
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in the authorizing bill, there's a requirement for the secretary of homeland security in consultation with the fire administration to establish some fire service position at the national operations center, and i've been given to understand that that is not a full-time position with full-time status. can you update us on that requirement and now it is being fulfilled by the fire administration? >> that is correct. it was not approved as 24/7 as full-time combat as a full-time position for person to deal with the transfer of data and information. that position has been approved and is presently being advertised for. so we're in the process of filling that position. >> and is it important that there be sort of a concerted person designated from the fire administration representing the fire services at the national operations center? >> yes. we believe that would be extreme
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helpful, as far as when he is a full-time, are we talking about around the clock. given the resource, that's probably not the most efficient way. if the threat level raised to a point, we would handle it as we do other positions at that time and staff of around the clock, based on conditions. but on a day-to-day basis it would be a full-time equivalent positions. >> thank you very much. and thanks to all the witnesses. >> i'd like to thank all the witnesses for their valuable testimony and the members for the question. the members of the subcommittee may have additional questions for the witnesses and will ask you to respond to those in writing. the record will remain open for two weeks for additional comments and statements from members. the witnesses are excuse. thank you all for coming. this hearing is now adjourned. [inaudible conversations]
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>> the u.s. senate meets this afternoon at 2 p.m. eastern. senator will consider a bill will consider a bill to continue the food and drug administration user the. they would pay for the fda's review of prescription drugs and medical devices. also today an appeals court judicial nomination and we will have live coverage of today's debate here on c-span2. over on c-span they will be live at noon eastern with a discussion of the navy's combat fleet and new ships coming into the plea. the navy undersecretary will be there along with government oversight officials. >> president obama is in chicago today for the final day of meetings with nato leaders. their discussion is centered on
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ending the afghanistan war. afghan forces are to take the lead in combat mission starting next year while nato transitions to a supporting role. president obama will hold a closing news conference in chicago. that's at 4:30 p.m. eastern, and you can watch live coverage on c-span. >> consumers are frustrated right now that their mobile devices are smart phones are working so slowly spinning commissioner robert mcdowell on spectrum auction. the universal service fund, competition for wireless space and two new commissioners tonight at 8 p.m. eastern on "the communicators" on c-span2. >> social security administrator commissioner michael astrue says the backlog in disability claims will continue if congress keeps cutting back on the agency's budget. he said disability claims have risen with the recession and more people are claiming mental illness. the commission testified before the senate finance committee for about an hour and 20 minutes.
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>> come to order. president kennedy once said, the nation's strength lies in the well being of its people. no federal program touches more american lives and benefits more and i can families than social security. next year the so security administration will pay benefits to almost 60 million americans. today, we will examine the agency's performance living benefits to workers and their families, and its role saving taxpayer dollars. this is not a hearing about the social security resolving. we'll hear from the commission of a social security administration, michael astor. commissioner astrue, during your confirmation before this committee in 2007, you can do to reduce its ability rings backlog. today, we will evaluate the results. at the beginning of last year,
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more than 771,000 people were waiting for a hearing. this is higher than when you started your turn. i expect to hear why the backlog grew and what the agency is doing to address it. michael klosson who lives in my hometown in helena, montana, needs this backlog to be fixed. he has spent years trying to work through the red tape. mike is a 55 year old army veteran, and his service didn't and when he retired from the military. my colleges with the american wages come with the disabled american veterans, helping other veterans find transportations to hospitals across montana. but his health problems make it tough for him to volunteer to do other work. during his military training exercise years ago, a tank next to him accidentally fired. mike's act broke in the accident. ever since, have suffered from
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chronic back pain. might work in heating and plumbing before joining the military. he was working as an employment specialist with the montana -- job serving 2004 when the disabilities became too much to bear. he had to leave his job. he applied for benefits shortly thereafter. mike has waited since 2005 for his benefits. seven years. he has settled between various security offices and his paperwork has gotten lost. mike and his wife had to sell their home in butte, montana, to be closer to his hospital in helena. they couldn't take the physical demands and the cost of traveling. his wife was his caregiver went back to work to make ends meet. things have been a struggle for them. financial hardship means are unable to visit their children and their grandchildren. and with many americans planning their retirement for financial futures, mike is tight.
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mike stepped up to volunteer to serve his country, but now that she was on the other foot, he is waiting for his country to serve him. fortunately, we are seeing one side of the progress in the social security administration but it doesn't take us long for people to make a decision on their claim. at the end of 2008, it took 514 days, almost a year and a half, and 2011, a few years later, it took 360 days, about a year. this is substantial progress, but still too long. mr. astrue, you set a goal of 270 days by the end of fiscal year 2013. together, we need to meet this goal. and while the agency has received 50% more retirement obligations since 2001, applications effective social star general, they are workers to deal with the increased workload. these challenges have been compounded because the agency's
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budget has remained flat during the last three years. the social security administration needs an adequate budget to fix the disability backlog and root out improper payments. for fiscal year 2013, the president has asked for 11 points $76 billion. this is 307 billion more than last year, most of which is dedicated to reducing improper payments, thereby improving the long-term outlook of social security. every dollar spent to root out improper payments saves six to $10 in the long run. those are dollars that will help the trust fund. unfortunately congress to provide full funding for these efforts in fiscal 2012. doing so would have saved taxpayers more than $800 million. if the congress, follow the president's recommendation it would have saved the trust fund $800 million to social security
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retirees would have $800 million more cushion in the trust fund. we all talk about saving social security. here's a great return, about one and six, 110. i don't no if we can get much better than that. still, congress is very shortsighted and did not recognize the real payout here for some reason. don't know why. we can't afford to repeat this mistake. failing to fully fund the program's integrity is penny wise and pound focus. so as to invest, it reduced the disability backlog. to do that, we could do both. let's ensure that americans like michael is not stuck waiting for benefits they earned and let us ensure that the social star program is making our program stronger by improving america's well being. senator hatch? >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank you for scheduling this hearing and a junior in welcoming commissioner astrue. the social security administration oversees numerous
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programs and is responsible for stewardship of significant taxpayer resources. we are all interested in hearing from the commissioner about his stewardship of those resources, his plans for the future, and his strategies for confronting existing and ongoing challenges facing social security's programs. a few short weeks ago, we received a reminder of some of the challenges facing social security's finances in the annual report of the trustees. according to the report, the combined old-age and survivors insurance and disability insurance trust funds within social security are projected to be exhausted in 2033, three years sooner than in the previous year's report. the trustees identify that as the system is currently structured, social security beneficiaries face benefit cuts of as much as 25% in 2033, with further cuts thereafter. to state things simply, current promises embedded in social security cannot be sustained
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given the system's existing structure. worse yet, the disability insurance trust fund is projected to become exhausted in 2016, less than four years from now, and two years earlier than estimated just one year ago. absent changes, disabled workers will very soon face the real threat of a 21% benefit cut in 2016. and with the recent explosive growth in the ranks of disability insurance benefit recipients, far outpacing growth in the general working population, 2016 might be a rosy outlook in terms of when the disability trust fund actually becomes exhausted. benefit payments in the disability insurance program have increased by a remarkable 134% since 2000. following the fiscal cliff that we face at the end of this year, we have a solvency cliff in 2016 for the disability insurance
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program and then another solvency cliff for the social security retirement program. yet in the face of these known dangers, we continue to kick the can down the road, instead of addressing the known problems. we should not act like thelma and louise when it comes to social security and our economy by driving them off a cliff into an abyss of insolvency and economic decline. inaction is irresponsible. as the president remarked recently in advocating more tax-and-spend policies, the fact that this is an election year is not an excuse for inaction. unfortunately, i am not aware of any plans by the administration to tackle the looming exhaustion of the disability insurance trust fund or the general unsustainability of social security. as far as social security is concerned, it appears that this being an election year is the administration's reason for inaction and is just another excuse for them to kick the can down the road once again. so many tax provisions expire at the end of this year that a
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dangerous fiscal cliff has formed. by not acting now, we are just stepping on the accelerator even as we are already perilously close to the cliff. inaction for the rest of this year only invites careless and hasty decision making, which leads to bad policy. i urge the administration to work with congress on the mountainous to-do list of expiring tax provisions and unsustainable entitlement promises in the interest of sound policymaking, certainty, and the provision of an economic environment fertile for growth in jobs and the economy generally. there is no reason to delay efforts that will place the programs in social security on a sustainable financial path. as virtually everyone acknowledges, the sooner we address the issue, the better. mr. chairman, i appreciate you holding this hearing.
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commissioner astrue, i know you have an insurmountable job in many ways, and we have great respect for you. i want to thank you for your service and for joining us today. i look forward to hearing about your budget, your challenges, and your plans for the social security administration. we appreciate you coming. >> thank you very much senator. mr. astrue, i would just like to go through some numbers and see if they are accurate. there's some talk about -- sorry. do you want to talk? [laughter] >> if it pleases the committee spent i'm so excited to ask you questions. spent well, if we can continue, if i will be permitted, i understand i have a couple of minutes of grays on the standard five minute. i'm the only witness they but i will try to make it as quick and the as i possibly can. >> i apologize spent chairman
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baucus -- >> i want to introduce you. >> i'm sorry. [laughter] >> we have a very distinguished guests today. [laughter] and that habit have you introduced them. >> commission of social city, the honorable michael astrue. we are very much look forward to testimony, commissioner. we have no new server years, you served in several capacities and then to work, very, very proud of you. you perform admirably. take a deep conviction, conscientious catholic and we appreciate your work. so why don't you proceed. you do have a little more than two minutes. >> thank you -- >> and your statement will automatically be in the record. >> chairman baucus, ranking member hatch, members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to discuss the resources we need to continue to providing outstanding public service. as we do so, we must always remember that we must maintain
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our responsibility to save taxpayer dollars. in every fiscal year through 1994, through 2007, congress has appropriate less money than the president requested. the same time our workload steadily increased because the nation's population was growing and the baby boom generation entered its this velvet chrome years before filing for retirement. congress has also added dozens of new statutory responsibilities without simplifying the complexity of the social security act, which has grown over 77 years. out employees fortitude has allowed us to keep up to some extent, but we have started to lose ground. from 2001-2007, the agency responded to budget cuts by dramatic reducing its program and integrity work in extremely poor choice from the taxpayers perspective. as you mention in your opening comments, continuing disability reviews say that taxpayers substantial dollars for every administrative dollar spent.
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the agency also responded to budget cuts but under investing in its hearing of appeals staff. aas a result, delays are visible hearings steadily worsened and became a national disgrace. not only was government failing its citizens, it was also spending more administrative money per claim to eventually handle these claims that were taking too long. when i start as commissioner, the first issue of this committee raise was a hearing backlog. at the time it took on average more than 500 days or person to get a hearing. we all agreed that had to change. i made the case we need to move in new directions and you understood it would only be possible with your support. the investments that you may to produce substantial dividends. despite huge increase in this build applications caused by the deepest recession since the great depression, we have weathered a storm that produced
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over 600,000 more applications each year that our actuaries projected before the recession.
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>> we have capped the average wage for an initial decision steady, and the original cause with your new compassion allowance and quick disability determination processes. severely disabled applicants who often waited years for a decision in the past now get one many an average of 10-14 days. five years ago you would probably get a busy signal when you called the field office. now the busy rate is less than 10%.
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last year we had the lowest waits in busy rates ever on our 800 telephone number. we've also made progress in policy. we have updated medical rules that had been out of date for decades, and we have started the long, slow process of overhauling our main vocational tool, the dictionary of occupational titles, which the department of lay or boar largely stopped updating in the late '70s. early in my tenure i was stunned to learn that the office responsible for notices had been disbanded. we mail 350 million notices each year to the american public. many of these important communications were inaccurate and poorly written. we've been rewriting our notices systematically in plain language to make it easier for people to understand our actions and their responsibilities. program integrity work while still not funded at the levels requested, is up substantially. we are also taking advantage of technology. we redesigned our online
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services which had been invaluable in helping us to keep up with recession-related work. we have four of the five most highly-rated electronic services in the federal government, and we are the only federal agency widely offering online services in spanish. for the first time ever, we have a backup for our national computer center, and last month we finally had the ground-breaking ceremony for the state of the art replacement facility. the new building, by the way, will be constructed for about $75 million less than the original cost that we and the congress had projected. none of these accomplishments would be possible without our employees. we've achieved an average productivity increase of 4% a year for the past phi years and -- five years and a higher rate this year so far. a remarkable achievement that very few organizations, public or private, can match. and we all owe them our gratitude for their work on the front lines. i'm concerned that despite their hard work we are seeing signs
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that we will soon be moving backwards for most of our key service goals n. fiscal years 2011 and 2012, the difference between the president's budget and our appropriation was greater than in any other year of the previous two decades. also last year congress rescinded 275 million from our i.t. carryover funding which will greatly damage our efforts to maintain our productivity increases through i.t. innovation. we are starting to see the consequences of these decisions. our progress in addressing our hearings backlog, for example, is not happening as quickly as the public deserves. we need your support for the president's fy-2013 budget request as well as a timely and adequate supply of well qualified judges from opm if we have to achieve our goal of an average processing time of 270 days by the end of next year. few people realize that a
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rapidly-increasing percentage of our work results from our verification role for other federal, state and local entities. for example, the number of people who visited our offices to verify their benefits for a third party has increased by 46% since 2007. last year we conducted 1.4 billion, billion, verifications for programs such as e-verify, voter registration, driver's licenses and health care programs. while most of these verification occurred cheaply and automatically, a small but increasing number result in nonmatches that strain the resources of our rapidly-shrinking field offices. many members of congress have written about the importance of our service in local communities. unfortunately, budget cuts do not allow us to employ the staff necessary to meet all their expectations. by the end of this fiscal year, we'll have lost 6500 federal and state employees in the past two years. and as you well know, attrition
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by hiring freeze does not occur evenly, and many of our smaller, rural offices have been hit harder than the average office. much of the progress we have made in the past five years could vanish if we keep losing fast at in this rate and in this fashion. our accomplishments demonstrate the direct correlation between funding and service. i appreciate this opportunity to explain the wonderful work that the men and women of the social social security administration perform under enormous and increasing stress. they need your continued support as reflected in the president's fiscal year 2013 budget request to continue to serve the american people in the way that you and i expect. be happy to answer any questions you may have. >> thank you. thank you, mr. astrue. i'd like to indicate what the director of montana thinks, and
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that is >> increasing case law. so, i'd like to ask you, you know, your thoughts about that. we clearly want to see disability hearings backlog improved, what you're all working on, but the other efforts off to the side. could you just comment on what happened to your agency if we don't get the president's budget request? again, to -- we expect to start
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dropping below employees of five years ago before terribly long. and the retirements and the attrition do not happen evenly around the organization. so not only do we have the problem that we have fewer people to do the work, we have the wrong people in the wrong places. and with all the restrictions of government, it's not easy to move people and move work in the way that allows for the optimal result. so we expect that we will continue to be contracting the number of field offices that we have. we've already closed virtually all the contact stations. we've closed most of the remote hearing offices for odar.
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we expect that we will start having backlogs at the dds level that we haven't had before, that people will be waiting longer for services in field offices. and i think there's a real question as to whether we're going to hit the goal at the end of next year. we'd been making great progress with them. congress wanted to check and ask gao to do a crystal ball analysis, and we did well with that a few years ago. i think it's a question of will at this point. if congress wants us to make that goal, i think if you support us adequately, it'd be close. now, we lost most of our margin of error last year. we could still hit it, i think, from congress. but if we don't get support for the president's budget, the chances we'll hit the 270 on time are almost nonexistent. >> could you explain it takes a while to train new people to do the work? this is not work -- the man or
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woman that walks in the office the first day and say, here, you know, here's your job. >> are yes, that's exactly right. i think about every three years the supreme court complains about the complexity of the social security act, and there's some memorable quotes about that. we expect that for most of our front line workers whether they're in the ddss in montana, whether they're in the field office, that the work is so complicated that they contribute relatively little in their first year of work. it's mostly learning. and, in fact, they can be a real drain on productivity because somebody who knows how to do the work has to take the time to make sure that the person's learning, that the work is proper. so it's really you start contributing in your second year, and you're probably not in most cases reasonably productive from an operations point of view until after the second year. it's a particular problem with the ddss because the salary scales in the states are very low, and the turnover is very high. our turnover attrition rate tends to be around 3% for the
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federal employees, it tends to be 9-10% in the state employees. we actually sometimes, we actually did this in utah with senator hatch's guidance and support a couple years ago. the attrition rate was in, i think, the 30s in utah, and we worked with the state to reclassify the jobs so we could actually hold on to the employees who were doing the front line work. >> will you mentioned that most of your temporary sites are being closed. it's my understanding that you plan to offer a permanent remote site in great falls, montana, is that correct? >> yes, that's correct. we, um, had been planning to -- i think the issue had been working with gsa to find an appropriate site and an appropriate cost. and i think we just, actually, we had a letter from senator tester that i think we just responded to yesterday or the day before confirming that that will be, that will be coming. >> yeah. and for those who aren't familiar with the distances in
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montana, that is very significant because otherwise people, the great falls area and even north of great falls otherwise had to go all the way to billings, montana? that's many, many hours' drive. >> yes. >> it's a long, long, long way. >> i understand. [laughter] >> so it makes a big difference. we deeply appreciate you recognizing the remote nature of our state so people with disability don't have to drive quite as far. i mean, that's a long -- a big burden to put on people. >> and what that is will be a permanent video link. and i think particularly for those of you in the rural states, we need your support on video. we are not going to have the staff to do everything face to face the way that we could 30 years ago. the quality of the video is very high. you can actually see the water mark on a driver's license on the video well enough to use that for verification purposes on a remote location. also for hearings, and i'm
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frustrated that not a lot of attorneys are not taking us up on this yet, they can now do video hearings from the comfort of their own offices with a relatively small investment in if equipment. it would make us much more efficient, it would allow us to spend less on bricks and mortars if if more of the attorneys representing claimants would take us up now on the offer that they can run the hearings by video from their offices. >> is there any incentive you could provide? >> not under the current statute, but i think that's a very fine question, mr. chairman. >> thank you. senator hatch? >> well, thank you, mr. chairman. commissioner, there have been reports of problems in social security's disability programs, as you've outlined. some relate to possibly careless or even corrupt benefit grants made by administrative law judges, and some relate to attorneys representing claimants in the appeals process. now, it seems to me that the stakes are pretty large. dr. mark who chef sky, currently a member of the social security
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oversight board, recently presented evidence that low-claim denial rates who decide on many cases, quote, have a fixed tendency over time to rarely deny claims, unquote, and calculated that if remedies were put in place to shore up the claims process, we could save tens of billions of dollars. of course, those savings could then be used to provide benefits for the truly disabled and would help with the nearly exhaustive disability insurance trust fund. let me be clear, disabled workers who are eligible for benefits that have bona fide disabilities are fully entitled to what the di program provides. however, there seems to be evidence suggesting that some of the decision-making could be leading to benefits being granted in cases where there's no bona fide disability. in those cases, they drain taxpayer resources away from where they were intended and rob the di trust fund of resources that should be going to the
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truly disabled. no american worker and no disabled worker likes it when someone defrauds the system and takes resources intended for those truly in need. and it's truly not fair, and tens of billions of dollars may be at stake here. now, mr. commissioner, i know that you're working to address problems in the di system, but i wonder if you could comment on where you believe further work needs to be done in addition to what you've said here, and what are you doing to enhance the integrity of the di claims process? >> yes. no, that's a very fine question, mr. hatch. i speak with a lot of well-motivated people that have a philosophical feeling that we should be granting a lot more benefits or a lot fewer benefits. i don't view that as my goal. what i view as my goal is to have our judges call it as squarely as possible on the
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basis of the statutes that you and the congress have written. and i think that what gives me cause for concern are the judges who, in my opinion out of arrogance or ideology, take it amongs to ignore the law -- among themselves to ignore the law that you have written and that they're pledged to uphold and make their own judgments either to be a robin hood or to be a scrooge. if you look at the statistics on the outliers, we have improved senately in the last five -- significantly in the last five years. we've done that with better training of the new judges, we've done that with more counseling. we've also been more active in discipline, and we have not actively disciplined a judge for not adhering to the law yet. but the same arrogance that leads a judge to engage in that kind of behavior also usually allows them to engage in other
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kinds of inappropriate behavior. so we've removed more judges for conduct on my watch than in all the previous commissioners combined. that has started to have a beneficial effect. but i don't want to suggest to you, senator hatch, that we are where we should be, and the number of judges who are basically thumbing their nose at you, the congress, is still higher than it should be. it should be zero. i think that my authority in that area is gray. this was a hearing on the house side i would commend the transcript of that to you, joint between ways and means and judiciary. i think if you're concerned about the issue, i'm more than willing and the agency's more than willing to take it on, but i think you need to look at how to strengthen the agency's authority while still respecting the independence of the judiciary. >> well, thank you. mr. commissioner, the disability insurance program dispersed close to $130 billion of benefit payments in 2011, and it's the
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fastest growing of all of our entitlement programs. in just over a decade, aggregate payments in the di program have risen by almost 135%. now, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize this type of growth is unsustainable. according to the social security trustees, the di trust fund will be exhausted by 2016, and beneficiaries will face benefit cuts of 21%. now, some look back to the greenspan commission and suggest that we solve the problem by simply pouring funds from the oasi trust fund into the di trust fund, and yet that simply robs peter to pay paul, in my opinion, and does not solve any of the structural problems. now, one cause of the rapid expansion of di costs is that some researchers have pointed to stems from 1984 reforms to di screening that led to rapid growth in the recipients suffering from back pain and mental illness. two researchers affiliate with the the national bureau of
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economic research have also written that, quote, the di screening procedure put in place by congress hims to a significant extent on an applicant's employment causing the program to function much like a long-term unemployment insurance program for the unemployable, unquote. now, of course, anyone who is eligible and has a bona fide disability is entitled to di benefits, but di benefits paid to anyone who is not truly disabled simply takes resources away there those who are truly disabled. now, i have, i think my time is up. can i ask these two questions? i have two questions related to the di program. first, do you agree that the sometimes-difficult-to-diagnose conditions related to back pain and mental illness accounts for some of the most rapid expansion of the di beneficiary population, and secondly, to what extent do the opinions of those makes -- making di benefit
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conditions determine eligibility for di benefits? that is, has di become an unemployment benefit provider of last resort? >> um, senator hatch, let me say i think that, um, di is a rapidly-growing, um, program. i think that there have been some analyses i've seen recently that misunderstand the nature of that. most of that has been predictable, um, and has been predicted by the actuaries for a long time. and if you simply compare the growth in di to the growth in many population, um, you would think, okay, the program is growing faster than it should. but when you factor in people like me at 25 who are perfectly healthy, not so much at 55 that
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the actuaries say that almost all the growth in di is consistent with what they've been predicting for a long time based on the baby boom going through its disability-prone years. having said that, if you look at on a more granular basis some of the causes of growth, i certainly say with mental illness you're correct, that we as a society are diagnosing mental illness more frequently, we are prescribing treatments for mental illness much more frequently than in the past is certainly a significant factor in the growth. i'm not sure that the back pain and muscular damage is as much of a factor, but we'll go back and give you information on that for the record. in terms of being a back-up employer for unemployment, other nations -- england, for instance, quite consciously did that, regretted it and is pushing back in the other direction. i think that there's a fair
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amount of evidence from how the agency has handled cases during this recession to indicate that that's not true. i think that we're calling cases squarely for the most part exactly as we have been, but our allowance rates have dropped at the dds and odar level to the lowest in a long period of time. at odar the last few months it's a 50% allowance rate. we haven't seen that since i had my first job in the senate in 1978. the ddss, you have to go back to, i think, 1997 until you've seen an allowance rate as low. and i don't think it's because we've become tougher, we've changed our standard. but what happens during recessions is that economically-desperate people alie. and the vast majority of them -- apply. and the vast majority of them get rejected because we adhere to the statutory standard. we don't want to -- we don't feel that we're supposed to turn it into exactly what you're
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concerned about. now, when you have 650,000 more applications in a year, are we perfect? are there some people that slid through during the recession, were allowed for benefits who probably shouldn't have been? probably some. but i think for the most part, um, we've administered the program with integrity and tried to do exactly what the congress has told us to do and not take it upon ourselves to move the standard, move the needle in one direction or the other. >> thank you very much. senator carden. >> thank you, appreciate it. >> you bet. >> mr. chairman, first of all, thank you for this hearing, and commissioner astrue, it's a pleasure to have you before the committee. i want to acknowledge the improvements that i've seen in regards to the annual earnings statement's availability to recipients. we, i now understand that there is a secured web site where the information that would be
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contained in the mailed version of the earnings, annual earnings statement's available. i've communicated with you the importance of this document for people knowing and projecting where their retirement income will be to look at the accuracy of the information, to look at their eligibility. and i also understand you do have, if budget is proved, resources to mail out to individuals, a hard copy. and i just encourage you to continue to make that information available as easily as possible. it's very important for people to know where they are in the social security system. i want to talk about the issue that you've raised. i've had a chance, as you know, to visit the work force in maryland. these are dedicated people working very hard. you pointed out their productivity's up 4% a year now
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consistently. you've had 6500 fewer workers, and the numbers are increasing every day. the interesting point you raise is that as we lose a person through retirement, it takes you a period of time to get a person trained to do that work. and you said as much as a year could be lost in productivity. >> yes. >> as a result of losing people. now, we've gone through two years of the pay freeze. we have a projected increase that'll be less than what would be normally required. we have a tax on retirement which has to be an impact. i when your workers look at what we are considering here in changing the retirement rules, seems to me it just encourages some people who have the ability to retire to say why am i putting up with this? so is this a real concern, that we're losing people that otherwise might be staying in public service and providing the
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services so that disability determinations can be done more timely because people just saying, what are we doing here? there's a tax coming all the time. >> yeah, no, i would say i'm close to panic about holding on to our people because they're the ones that do the work. um, we'd be nothing without them, and it is very hard to find the right people and to train them properly and. and really for a lot of what we do, you often need five or ten years of experience to do it well. so i work very hard to try to hold on -- i'll tell you another factor for so many people on our front line that's scary, even in a tight budget we've invested a lot more in the physical security in our offices. i read every violence report, um, that comes in to the agency, and that wasn't a big deal five years ago. i think there were only about 500 attacks or serious threats of assault.
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i think it's 2500 this year, and as you can see with the recession, they -- the intensity of the incidents got worse. and i think that it's easy in a lot of government agencies to be insulated from that. most of our people are out on the front line looking face to face with severely disturbed people on a regular basis. and that tension during the recession where people have been more violent, people have been more anti-government, there have been more, a lot more threats of violence, that's a real factor in losing people too. that's taking a toll on people on the front line. and that's why we've invested even in tight budget more in security than we have in the past. >> yeah, i know we're going to have disagreements, legitimate disagreements on budget priorities and how we need to proceed to balance the federal budget, but i think we all want to make sure that our federal work force is safe. >> yeah. >> that it has the support it
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needs. i don't know of a member of the senate who doesn't believe that the benefit bees provided by the -- benefits provided by the social security administration is vital to our country. i don't know of a member who doesn't want to see the services done in a more timely way, in a more professional way. and when you have an agency that has an increased productivity at the level that you have been able to achieve, that is being asked to do more with less, i think the least we can do is to make sure that we provide the type of support you need in order to get the job done. >> thank you. >> and certainly, i think our language here at times has been counterproductive in keeping some of our best in public service. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator. senator grassley. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you, mr. astrue, for your work. following a little bit on the last conversation you had with senator hatch but asking a
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little different direction. you made some reference in your opening statement about the online application has helped, quote, dole with the additional -- deal with the additional economy-driven claims. this raises a question of whether disability insurance program has become an alternative unemployment benefit. those receiving benefits who are not disabled slow down the agency's response to those who are disabled. and they obviously contribute to the trust fund insolvency problem. two specific questions. why should the economy have a significant impact on the number of claims? in other words, people shouldn't be filing claims because the economy's bad, they file claims because they think they're disabled. and then secondly, what is the
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total number of applications for fiscal year 2011, and how many of those were not disapproved? -- or not approved? >> senator, so there has been a fairly substantial body of economic research over the years that shows -- people who are on the margins, who decide to take the chance. and there is, you know, as much as we try to make this as black and white as possible, there is a random element. these are human beings often making difficult calls. and is so people decide to take the chance. now, typically what should happen and what does happen in most cases is that most of those
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claims are rejected. but we don't stop people from applying. so it's not just this recession. if you go back historically, for instance, looking at the early '80s and other periods of high recession, the di workload goes up. i'll give you the precise record, numbers for the record, but 2011 we had somewhere between 3.2 and 3.3 million applications, if i remember correctly. at the initial level, we allowed about 34%, but let me just double check and make sure -- i'm very close, and we'll provide the precise number for the record. but let me, let me also, i think, respond to what you and senator hatch are trying to get at in a way. there are, if you're concerned about the system not being tight enough, there are some things that i think this committee
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should consider looking at. um, over time i think the courts out of sympathy for claimants have expanded statutory language beyond your intent, and in particular we have inconsistent rulings in the circuits on the treating physician rule which is critical to a lot of our cases. and in the ninth circuit, for instance, i believe it's particularly broad. they can't all be right, and it is potentially a way of blowing open the system and allowing cases that shouldn't be allowed if that standard, um, is not consistent with what i believe is congress' original intelligent. that's an area that i think is looking at. the area of what constitutes improvement on continuing disability reviews. court, i think, hold us to a higher standard than what congress originally intended. and also the return to work
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area, i think, is important. i think that as admirably intend ed as ticket to work was, i think it's been a disappointment in terms of its outcome. it's not, according to the actuaries, cost effective yet. and i think part of the reason for that is that congress has every five to ten years layered on more work incentives. it is so complex that i think it overwhelms people who even do want to come back to work. it's why we've up until recently congress has authorized what we call wipas, really largely to explain to people how to return to work. and that's a program that hasn't been reauthorized, and we think that we should. although some day i think it would be better to simply say, let's simplify the program. and in general what i would say is i know the way the budget trends are going. you know, we can't continue to do business as usual.
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what i would plead with the committee to consider doing is if you can't provide more money, let's look at ways to simplify the statutes, simplify our responsibilities. i think in sometimes trying to get equity and a lot of policy perfections, we've introduced complexity that has had unintended, negative consequences for the public. so i think working on legislative simplification generally would be a very positive way for us to go. >> i have one question i'm going to submit for answer in writing. thank you. >> senator nelson. >> good morning, mr. astrue. i want to follow up on the question of publishing the names and social security numbers of deceased people that you and i have talked about. but, mr. chairman, let me set the table. what is happening is we have a new kind of crime.
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it is not a crime with a gun or a knife or a crowbar, it is the use of a laptop once the social security numbers -- particularly of deceased people -- have been acquired, which is 34eurbed by social security -- published by social security, they file in the name of the deceased or in the case of a deceased child, most recently this morning's news out of memphis, a deceased child that lost a four-year battle with cancer. the name was published, the social security was published, the child's social security number was used as a dependent on a false tax return asking for a refund. and what is happening in communities like tampa and
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orlando, street crime, drugs, thefts, burglaries are going down because it's so easy for the criminals to get all of this money from income tax refunds because they've gotten somebody's social security number. and one of the sources as pointed out by this morning's news from memphis is deceased social security being published by social security. so when i talked to the, mr. astrue, about this, he said he has a lawsuit is settlement that requires under foia, the freedom of information act, that these numbers have to be published. and he says that we can only
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change this by statute. well, of course, i've filed the statute, but in the meantime the criminals are having a field day. now, i disagree with mr. astrue, and i want to bring to his attention some change facts. in the first place, he's operating with legal counsel on the basis of a lawsuit that was settled in the 1980, and the lawsuit was settled under foia just for the names and social security numbers. and it was to be published once a year. he publishes names, social security numbers and other information every day. that's a big difference. and i would ask you to consider that. you publish their address, you publish their date of death, you publish probably their date of
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birth, a whole set of information that was not required by the original lawsuit in 1980. mr. chairman, i would also bring to the committee's attention that since 1980 there have been a lot of cases that have found that the deceased has a privacy interest. and let me give you one that i have some familiarity with, because as you know after we returned to earth on the 24th flight of the space shuttle, ten days later challenger launches. and, of course, through foia people were trying to get all kinds of information about the astronauts. and that case ruled that the victims have a privacy interest that can be protected. so, mr. astrue, i would ask with
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this additional information would you, please, consider until we can pass the statute changing the law that you do not have to publish all of this information and do so on a daily basis which makes it so easy for the criminals to get their hands on it and do this new type of crime that is ripping off millions and millions of dollars of american taxpayers? and furthermore, would you consider that you each under the current -- even under the current lawsuit settlement could publish the names and only the last four digits which would then prohibit the criminals from carrying out this highly new kind of effective crime? >> so, senator nelson, you and i have talked about this personally, and we're just in
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disagreement on the law. and with all due respect, this is something i've looked at extremely carefully. i'm a former agency general counsel, i'm a former white house foia privacy act -- so this is an area of the law that i know something about. you in the congress have set the statutory times deadlines for disclosure under the privacy act and the freedom of information act with some severe penalties for noncompliance under the privacy act. so, no, i can't just sort of release them every year because you and the congress have decided that i can't do that. um, i also, um, as we've discussed before, i don't think that we have statutory authority to withhold that information. you need -- there's a strong presumption of release under those statutes. you need an exemption. i don't believe -- the challenger case is the only case on the other side. i don't believe that the
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challenger case has broad application. no court since the challenger case has applied or broadened that exception, um, in this way, so i don't believe that that's available to me. but even if i were wrong on that, as a practical matter you have to understand that the carter administration settled this case under a judicial decree in 1980. i can't just go back and thumb my nose at a federal court order. i'd have to, first of all, get the department of justice to challenge it which i don't believe that they would because they have no basis for going back and reopening it which is why they support the legislation that the administration has proposed that is somewhat similar to yours, and then it would probably be a four-year process to get a definitive decision even if justice department were to do that. so i don't think it's appropriate, i don't think it's practical, and i think what has to happen is the congress has to
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act. um, and i think that this is one of those rare opportunities where we can set aside a lot of the bipartisan problems in washington and work together in collaboration. the administration has a bill that's similar to the congressional bills. on the house, the lead has been on the republican side. chairman johnson of the ways and means committee. you and senator durbin have introduced bills here. i would say to you i think that this committee and the senate ought to take it up as a personal challenge in this the year to get this bill passed this year. i think this is one of the relatively few areas where i don't think there's a big disagreement on principle. so i would say this is the congress' responsibility, not the executive branch's to fix, and i would urge you to fix it as quickly as possible. >> in a normal year, mr. chairman, this would be the kind of bill that would be considered
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a motherhood bill. but the fact is that since it touches on taxes and social security in this political context of an election year for president, it's going to be very difficult. in the meantime, there is a public interest to be protected. and mr. astrue and i disagree on this, and i would merely ask you what you just said, if you would request of the justice department their interpretation so that if perhaps you might be wrong in your considered judgment as former legal counsel, that we might get some relief until we can pass this statute. mr. chairman, thank you very much.
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>> thank you, senator. clearly, this is a problem. and i think it would be worth our while to try to pick up this legislation. you have your legislation, the administration has a version. they sound not dissimilar, and both geared to resolve the same problem. and my view is we've got to try. i recognize some of the difficulties that occur this year. you don't get anything accomplished if you don't try, so let's see what we can do, work with the administration, with you, senator, maybe have a hearing on the subject because it's just, it's an outrage how people take advantage of, you know, the social security administration, take numbers and file for tax refunds. it's just an outrage, and let's see what we can do to stop this.
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>> and, mr. chairman, we've had two hearings on this in the subcommittee that i've had the privilege of chairing, so the record is complete. >> thank you. senator thune? >> thank you, mr. chairman, i want to thank commissioner astrue for being here to testify. social security's the single largest category of the budget, and the social security trustees recently released their annual report on the financial status of the program, and the report found social security can sustain full benefit payments for only three years than the last estimate. the social security disability insurance trust fund will be bankrupt by 2016 at the latest. if this happens, benefits will be automatically cut for current beneficiaries. the trustees' report underscores a need for meaningful entitlement reform to protect benefits for future generations which is why it's always so troubling
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troubling to find and hear about and learn of fraud in the program. we have to insure that the programs are operating efficiently. and i'd like to go back to something that senator hatch mentioned, and that is last december this "wall street journal" report of some potentially fraudulent practices on the part of law firms such as binder and binder representing claimants for disability benefits before the social security add manager, particularly in the appeals process where administrative law judges adjudicate claims. the report, which i would like to submit for the record, found that claimant representatives have in many be cases withheld evidence that the social security administration, from the social security administration that could prove their clients should not be eligible to receive disability benefits. and i, senator coburn has done a lot of work in this area, and i want to recognize his efforts in that regard in shedding light on the issue. but i'm disappointed to learn
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that the social security administration has refused to take action to address the allegations about this law firm and their material representations to the social security administration. i believe that full medical use of ability reviews must be performed on binder and binder claimants so that we can be sure that only eligible claimants qualify for ssdi benefits. ssa has a sufficient budget to do so, and in my view these reviews should be done not just on new allegations, but on prior allegations as well. and so my question is, is it not within your authority to prioritize the social security administration's program integrity functions within your existing budget to insure that there is a proper response to these claims? >> senator, i'm afraid i'm going to have to disagree with a number of the assumptions of your question. um, first of all, i'm familiar with "the wall street journal"
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article which was, we did not take no action. we did refer that to the office of the inspector general, and if you have questions about the progress of that, i would encourage you to talk to the inspector general. but that article was relatively thin in terms of the content of allegations. there really was not, in my opinion, very much there. it's also based in part on a misassumption that there is a requirement for all relevant medical evidence to be provided to the judge. and right now that's not the law. the previous two commissioners tried to make that the law, and my understanding is that they received a lot of opposition and not much support here in the congress for that. so, um, first of all, "the wall street journal" had it dead wrong on what the law was, and second, there wasn't much in the way of allegations. third, it would be unprecedented to go back and review all cases
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by a law firm on evidence anywhere near this thin. if you had proof of real fraud, and i have no information from the inspector general that suggests that we have that, then it would be totally unprecedented to do that. any court that would look at that would throw it all out immediately, it'd be an e enormous waste of the taxpayers' dollars for me to do that. >> do you have any indications yet, can you summarize for us any of the inspector general's findings? here's nothing --hat they've >> publicly? >> publicly reporteduch re than that, but certainly my expectation, again, senator, read that "wall street journal" article very carefully. you realize, first of all, that there is not a legal obligation to present every bit of evidence to the agency because our rules are not written way. there's a factual error underlying that whole article. past that, there's not very much
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specific in terms of evidence. there's unsupported here say -- hearsay. it may be true, but in order for us to take action, we have to have some proof in evidence, and "the wall street journal" certainly did not provide very much for thement inner general to go on. >> i'm sure we'll revisit that issue. last month there was a social security administration disability claims judge, judges, i should say, that were instructed no longer seek out information from social media web sites in deciding cases? >> yep. >> as you know, in our digital world with the internet including social media web sites, they provided an important tool for aljs to gather evidence about ssdi and ssi program applicants. and law enforcement in particular is using some of those mediums for investigative purposes. does the recent decision by the ssa work against program integrity? >> no, just to the contrary.
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first of all, you need to understand that to protect the public's privacy and to protect hundreds of millions of dollars, billions of dollars of investment in systems we have one of the toughest firewalls in the world. it's not just that we don't allow the judges to use facebook, none of our lows use facebook -- i can't get onto my computer and go facebook unless i specifically go and use a complicated work around from the i.t. people. so we do that to protect, first of all, the privacy of individuals and, second of all, to avoid horribly-damaging malware getting into the system that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars to fix, number one. number two, my opinion, i have to run a very tight, efficient operation to meet the public and congress' expectations.
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you allow broad social media time on government time, i think that becomes an enormous suck on productivity, and i think if i were to allow it, it would be a very short period of time before i would be before a committee saying, trying to answer the question how come your employees are spending all their time on facebook and other social media sites? the final thing is, if a judge becomes aware of something that looks fraudulent from social media sites, we have not told them to ignore it. what we've done consistent with our longstanding policies is tell them to refer it to the inspector general so that there can be a proper investigation. and i want to assure you, too, that, you know, social media sites are not exactly, um, clear and reliable evidence. it takes some context sometimes
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to figure out, well, is that really the person? be facebook puts up phony web sites under my name all the time. i've never signed up for facebook, but i'm constantly asking them to take down facebook sites that purport to be mine. and spouses, angry ex spouses do that to each other which is why you need professionally-trained fraud investigators to take circumstantial ed of -- evidence of fraud and see if it's real. so i think we're doing exactly the appropriate thing to do. >> okay. well, thank you, mr. chairman. i see my time's expired. i don't, i don't disagree there are abuses on social media platforms. i think we're all aware of those sorts of things. but i just, it seems to me that, um n enrolling beneficiaries in the ssdi program who don't meet its requirements is simply
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inexcusable, and i just think that any fraud prevention tool that's available out there that can be used and, like i said, law enforcement is using these mediums for their investigative purpose bees. we should be doing everything we can with every tool available to us in this day and age, particularly with the challenges we're facing fiscally in these programs, to get rid and root out fraud and abuse at every turn. >> that i actually agree with, senator. and what i would say is the inspector general does use social immediate blah ask -- media and other sites to start investigations, they do observe claim hasn'ts who they suspect of fraud. they've been underresourced in recent years. only about i think a third or a half of the cdi units that investigate that kind of fraud are funded now. so in addition to making a pitch for my budget under the president's recommendation, when you look at the ig's budget, um,
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they have, in fact, cut back a little bit on those cdi units. and that's the most effective front line unit that we have on fraud, and the congress hasn't been fully supportive of that. so i'd ask you to take a look at that. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator. um, senator hatch. >> well, i have a number of other questions that i'll just submit them to you, but let me just ask this one because it borders a little bit on senator nelson's concerns, and i just thought maybe i should ask it. and it also is a question that i've been talking with my constituents about quite a bit. as i understand, the social security administration is seeking atation to the accessibility of information in the public death file, sometimes called a death master file, which the releases from the department of commerce to any subscriber. the ssa's legislative
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specifications in this regard call for modifications of current restrictions on the release of certain information, certification by the ssa commissioner of entities eligible to purchase the information and authority to impose fees, penalties, audits and inspections. there is, of course, a need to balance security concerns with data views or interests. it is unconscionable when data on deceased individuals are used in fraudulent ways such as tax fraud and some of the ways that senator nelson has mentioned here. yet here are -- i have to say, there are legitimate commercial uses of the data that actually serve to deter some fraudulent activities and insure that certain payments, such as life insurance payments, are promptly made. i also believe there are legitimate used of the data by private purposes for for forensr
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personal genealogical research which is something we do a lot of. however, the ssa explicitly identifies use of data as general logical purposes as an illegitimate need for such public information. now, such a stance is, naturally, of concern to me and, certainly, to many of my utah con stitch rents. now, mr. commissioner, will you be promulgating new rules for accessibility of the so-called death master file be, or are you, as i think it indicated, indicating a statutory change or a legislative change? in either case, will you assure me that you intend to work with members of this committee on any proposals to change accessibility? >> no, i think we're in agreement, senator hatch. i think i was trying to be clear with senator nelson that i don't view this as a problem that i can solve administratively. i don't think i have the authority to do it. and, in fact, the difficult
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balances that you're pointing out -- which i agree with completely -- i think help prove my point that that's classic legislative balancing. that's not something that the congress has, um, empowered me to make. we had a meeting over at ways and means earlier in the week, and we had this hearing. i was hopeful that we would have the specification converted to actual legislative language. we're not quite there. and a part of that, i think, should be encouraging to senator hatch since the specifications have become more public. it has raised some concerns, i think i give the administration broadly credit for listening to those concerns. it means that the legislative language is being a little bit delayed. but i don't think they're approaching this from a rigid point of view. i think they're trying to figure out the best way to balance those -- i'll be quite candid that the reason we don't have the precise legislative language up here now is there's some
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rethinking on a couple of the provisions. and i honestly don't know for sure precisely how they'll come out at the end. but whatever happens, enough overlap between senator nelson's bill, the administration's bill, congressman johnson's bill and the house that it's 90% overlap. and i think that everyone realizes that the most important thing is to get moving to make sure that the major abuses don't continue. and a lot of these other things are things we would be able to work out through the course of the legislative process. and i certainly commit to working with the committee and the congress generally to accomplish that. >> well, thank you. i want to compliment you for the good work that you do. you have my respect, for sure. and hopefully, we can work out this statutory language so that some of these problems that have been raised can be solved. and be you're one of the few people, i think, might be able to work that out in a way that would really work well.


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